Sunday, October 30, 2011

Cherishing the ordinary

Artist: Mikhail Natarevich

I've emphasized the following principle before on this blog. It bears pondering again from another writer's point of view:
The great lesson from the true mystics . . . is that the sacred is in the ordinary, that it is to be found in one's daily life, in one's neighbors, friends, and family, in one's back yard.
— Abraham H. Maslow in Religions, Values, and Peak Experiences


  1. I totally believe that. In fact, if the sacred isn't a part of the ordinary it is irrelevant. I have lead several Lenten retreats on this very theme, usually using movie videos to make the point.

  2. That sounds wonderful, Tom. I'd like to know what some of those movies are that you've used.

  3. Spit Fire Grill,
    Pretty Woman,
    Searching for Bobby Fisher
    Schindler's List

    These are some of the ones I've used. But there are many, many movies that depict the divine in the ordinary without ever addressing religion or faith - as opposed to Hallmark theater which bangs you over the head and says, "Now look! There's a moral point to be seen here and "Now is a good time to go get a box of tissues because if the scene doesn't make you cry we'll help you with some crying music."

    A couple of times I used just Spit Fire Grill and over a period of weeks showed the entire film. Other times I've used excerpts from some of these. Pretty Woman was difficult because I had to edict it carefully because some of some of the scenes and language. But one of my favorite scenes, it still brings tears to my eyes when I think of it, is a scene where the call girl is stopped by the hotel manager. He takes her to his office where she pours out her heart telling him she has been given money to buy a pretty dress but she went into a shop where no one would wait on her. He takes pity on her and calls a contact at a department store. The woman at the department store treats her caringly and with respect. For me it evoked the stories of Jesus having his feet washed with perfume, of Jesus saving the woman about to be stoned, of Jesus being accused of eating with tax collectors and sinners. Take your pick.

  4. Thank you, Tom, for encouraging me to see a favorite movie in a whole new light.
    Carolyn L.

  5. Tom,

    I really like what you said "if the sacred isn't part of the ordinary, then it is irrelevant".

    Perfectly simple, eloquently stated and perfectly true.


    annie c

  6. Very often when I see the sacred depicted in the ordinary in a movie it turns primarily on a sequence of events that lasts not more than 15 minutes total. I think that was true in Schindler's List. Although the entire movie is easily seen as a one of transformation and risking one's life for the neighbor, I vaguely remember one sequence that begins with a woman coming to see Schindler, but it's been too long for me to recall the details. In Searching for Bobby Fisher there are three scenes. The first is when the young chess prodigy asks his mother if a man with whom he plays chess in a park has a place to sleep and if he can come and sleep in his room. The second is when the mother lays down the law with his father and makes clear she'll leave him if he tries to destroy the boy's basic goodness. The third is when the chess teacher tells the boy that Bobby Fisher's strength was that he looked with disdain on his opponents and the young boy looks at him and says, "I'm not Bobby Fisher" and then what follows between the teacher the boy and the mother is also beautiful. The reason I have taken an entire Lenten season with Spitfire Grill is because there is just one scene after another where a young woman who has just been released from prison makes it about others. And yet it is never maudlin and always believable. And the fun thing is finding scripture passages to read prior to the viewing and then asking people to reflect on the viewing in light of the scripture passage.

  7. Wow, Tom.

    I really wish I could have attended one of your Lenten retreats!

  8. People say they failed in my job or my business so often, not taking the time to see what they've been allowed to touched in other peoples lives is so much bigger than a simple success in business.

    I feel so wonderful when children touch my life. I say that when many I know say they have touched children's lives. I always end up learning so much from those little people that means so much more to me than anything I've given them.


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