I have never flown a glider. I have no desire to try bungee jumping. Aerial kite flying is right out! In fact for my entire life I haven’t really done anything either outstanding or remarkable. Swimming, downhill skiing and bicycling are about as adventurous as I have been. The transitions in my life were essentially predictable. Even winning the occasional reward or distinction was about par for the course. I have by comparison no hope of appointment to the bench or bestowal of a reward by the Governor General. Mediocrity is perhaps the least indelicate description of my life’s fulfillment.
This is not however something I view as a condemnation. I never had the ambition to be the Prime Minister or the CEO of an important company. I have known people who have attained the pinnacle of accomplishment and the overwhelming characteristic in every instance is that they were just doing their job. I think I can at least say that I too have lived up to that expectation though with less notoriety. What intrigues me more than anything in this analysis is that as important or unimportant as any one of us may be, in the end it all comes down to habit and repetition. Certainly we may like what we do – say, flying a jet or zipping around the globe to meet with other world leaders, or as in my case just going to the office – but it all boils down to doing one’s job. Honestly I can’t say that watching those traders on the stock exchange floor stimulates me to envy. Whether one is an investment banker on Wall Street, a surgeon connected to a celebrated university or some guy who worked for thirty years for the federal government, the only real source of satisfaction is how each views his or her own achievement. If the picture looks good it doesn’t matter a fig what constitutes it.
One must naturally leave aside the extraordinary instances of celebrities and famous people generally. Those numbers throw the averages way off! Besides trotting out the exceptional circumstances of those luminaries can more often than not be heartrending. My examination is confined to matters of popular inevitability. The theme I seek to develop is one uninhibited by the momentous even if ostensibly trivialized by the monotonous.
Aside from the private and intimate details of our internal battles, most of us have the appearance of just going about our business day-to-day. Over time we establish patterns which make the refinement of what we do disappear into the blur of repetition and constancy. Viewed from the outside, it’s just “same old, same old”. Yet for my part I never tire of the immutability. There is so much incredible subtlety in the scrutiny of any landscape that I cannot imagine losing interest. It helps buoy my conviction to recall that not so long ago most people never wandered further than a twenty-mile radius from their home. Actually I have no proof of that other than surmise but I nonetheless believe it to be a realistic assessment. I do of course exclude the Crusaders from that parochialism. But I can say that I have known people in my own lifetime who never left their small town to visit a city located no more than about twenty miles distant. I should also add that I have known people who have traveled the world and they have yet to convince me of their sophistication. But this is not about comparison, it is about acknowledgement. Too often we are dissuaded to acknowledge the repetitive, constant and undistinguished features of life even though that is the unvarnished reality for most of us and our family and friends. Watching a new episode of a fictional television series each week can hardly be the standard by which to measure life’s rendition unless it succeeds to repackage the identical theme again and again. In that case the set remains the same, the characters are the same and they re-live the same debacles over and over but each time with a moderate twist.
There is no indignity to repetition. We all know repetition can be the foundation of perfection or at least excellence. In spite of that assertion it is transparent that many people imagine their salvation lies in the equally repetitious discovery of new things, people and events. This posture does of necessity tend to diminish the value and thrust of one’s erstwhile activities. To accommodate this trend is paradoxically to relegate oneself to a manifest reiteration of one’s life. The threat survives that there can be lots going on and nothing happening. And meanwhile there is the risk that the valuable essence of one’s life is belittled and ignored.