The Extra-Ordinary Ordinary

"Art is not what you see, but what you make others see." – Edgar Degas

Why do we find such pleasure in the ordinary things of life? For instance, we may find pleasure in a painting which appears on the surface to have a quite familiar subject - yet, it produces such a feeling of satisfaction, that we seek it, again and again. Studies and considerable research has shown that it has not so much to do with the novelty of seeing something new, as it does with the nature of what it is we are seeing. The brain actually releases a pleasure hormone when we see or experience something familiar, and we get an immediate sense of well-being from the experience. The brain perceives this in terms of it's ‘good’ for us, and ‘safe’ for us. But not only does it produce a sense of familiarity and well-being, it also motivates us to see it or experience it, again and again. Less so, however, when we see a painting or experience an event which is unusual or even extraordinary . The brain generally has little to compare it with, and therefore little to form an association which would tell us it's good for us or bad for us. Instead it produces a feeling of unfamiliarity and discomfort, and, depending on the experience even danger and avoidance. 

Ultimately, our brain needs, indeed it requires, and is internally motivated to seek the familiar and the ordinary. For me, I now have a much better understanding of what constitutes good art; It is not the ‘masterpiece’ which all artists vainly seek to execute with every painting we do. It is the Artist’s deeply personal and deeply individual interpretation of life as he or she sees it, making the ordinary ‘extraordinary’ again and again.

Please take time to read the Poem by Judith Viorst below, which reflects the 'extra-ordinariness' of ordinary life.


The Pleasures of Ordinary Life

(A Poem by Judith Viorst)

I've had my share of necessary losses,
Of dreams I know no longer can come true.
I'm done now with the whys and the becauses.
It's time to make things good, not just make do.
It's time to stop complaining and pursue
The pleasures of an ordinary life.

I used to rail against my compromises.
I yearned for the wild music, the swift race.
But happiness arrived in new disguises:
Sun lighting a child's hair. A friend's embrace.
Slow dancing in a safe and quiet place.
The pleasures of an ordinary life.

I'll have no trumpets, triumphs, trails of glory.
It seems the woman I've turned out to be
Is not the heroine of some grand story.
But I have learned to find the poetry
In what my hands can touch, my eyes can see.
The pleasures of an ordinary life.

Young fantasies of magic and of mystery
Are over. But they really can't compete
With all we've built together: A long history.
Connections that help render us complete.
Ties that hold and heal us. And the sweet,
Sweet pleasures of an ordinary life.

- Judith Viorst.