responses to small struggles (issue 2)

This is The Ordinary, my attempt to notice the unexpected joy, value, and rigor of ordinary things.

You’re receiving this email probably because you were subscribed to my previous project, Survival Aesthetics. New subscribers, welcome!

What you can expect from me (almost) every Friday morning:

  1. A very ordinary quote

  2. A roundup of very ordinary reads

  3. A brief and very ordinary note

  4. A very ordinary visual

- Ammar


An Ordinary Quote:

Our preoccupation with goals, results, and the quick fix has separated us from our own experiences.

Mastery, George Leonard

Some Ordinary Reads:

“Reflections on 4.5 Years at Stripe” (Twitter): Brianna Wolfson’s love note to Stripe’s culture doubles as a love note to meticulousness: “It may sound exhausting but it’s surprisingly energizing to push the limits of craft and ship something truly spectacular.”

“Shop Class as Soulcraft” (book): A policy-wonk-turned-mechanic argues that corporate work has diminished our ability to relate with the world around us. As a gearhead, “getting it right demands that you be attentive in the way of a conversation rather than assertive in the way of a demonstration.”

“Creativity, Inc.” (book): Pixar co-founder Ed Catmull on the fractal nature of art, business, and life: “What’s needed, in my view, is to approach big and small problems with the same set of values and emotions, because they are, in fact, self-similar.”

An Ordinary Note:

It’s so annoying isn’t it, that the ordinary requires such careful attention.

I recognize this when the wifey asks for help with a necklace clasp. Suddenly, my fingers feel large, clumsy, and alien. I must move with more sensitivity and attention.

I’m so accustomed to easy and obvious. Why can’t the clasp be large enough to fit comfortably in my hand, the chain thick enough to discern without strain? So I despise the nuance of this small, ordinary, beautiful, stupid, frustrating, precious object.

The difference between the ordinary and the extreme is the exaggeration of features. The extreme wishes to be grasped at, so it contorts itself to be easy to clutch. Your eyes skim these paragraphs, trying to find the quick fix. So I embolden something to catch your grasping mind.

The extreme only cares about itself in relation to you. To the extreme, there is no atmosphere around it.

Something in the air changed a few years ago. We stopped caring to notice the ordinary. The logical progression of “efficiency” and “optimization” has turned us into instruments of desire for the extreme all around us.

The Climate has changed.

“Changing Climate: A Mad-lib Allegory”

The office is cold! I don’t want to be cold.

I could change the thermostat until the room becomes warm enough for my liking.

I could move to a city that has warm weather year round.

I could put on a sweatshirt or jacket.

I could adapt to the cold until it no longer feels cold.

The _______ is _______ ! I don’t want to be _______.

How do you respond to struggle? What does your outrage look like?

How do you respond to struggle? How do you decide which struggles are small and which are big?

An Ordinary Visual:

From Ruth Krauss & Maurice Sendak’s Open House for Butterflies