The Brilliance in Everyday Life

Exploring how to find extraordinary value and meaning in the ordinary, moving beyond binary thinking to discover one’s true self.

Challenges in a Society That Praises Uniqueness

From a young age, we grow up reading biographies of great people. These figures made their mark on the world with their outstanding achievements, and we are taught to become extraordinary like them. But what about the lives of countless ordinary people who lived in the same era? In dramas and movies, extraordinary protagonists are always at the center of the story, and we naturally come to understand the narrative from their perspective. This admiration for the exceptional and disdain for the ordinary becomes ingrained in our subconscious.


Do We Really Need to Distinguish Between Ordinary and Extraordinary?

Does the distinction between ordinary and extraordinary truly exist? What is considered ordinary or extraordinary varies greatly depending on personal values, experiences, and environment. What is ordinary in Korea may be extraordinary in another country, and what was ordinary 10 years ago may be seen as extraordinary now. In reality, distinguishing between ordinary and extraordinary and dividing them into good and bad stems from an old binary way of thinking. Even within what we consider ordinary, there can be extraordinary values and meanings, and within what seems extraordinary, we can find universal attributes.

The Problem with Binary Thinking

When we judge by distinguishing between ordinary and extraordinary, we simplify the evaluation, ignoring the diverse and complex attributes of the subject. Philosopher Levinas suggests that by hastily judging others, we avoid complex ethical responsibilities. When we judge someone simply as good or bad, they become a flat character that is easy to control. Furthermore, this binary thinking increases the likelihood of applying strict standards to our own lives. People may believe that only extraordinary and successful lives matter, leading to disappointment and pessimism about their own lives.


Beyond Binary Thinking: Finding Your True Self

Saying not to distinguish between ordinary and extraordinary doesn’t mean living a lukewarm and easy life. When we stop evaluating based on society’s binary standards, our unique values and diversity emerge. At this point, we can observe all experiences in life with an open mind and discover what it truly means to live authentically. Free from value judgments, we can find what we genuinely desire, allowing us to pour our passion and find joy without effort, leading to a deeper and more meaningful life.

Discovering Brilliance in the Ordinary

Marina van Zuylen’s book, <A Tribute to an Ordinary, Radiant Life>, reminds us of the beauty and value within the ordinary life we naturally overlook. Through stories from philosophers and literature, the book narrates special moments discovered within the ordinary. By breaking away from perfectionism and binary distinctions, we can rediscover the various aspects of life through stories of finding and living in satisfying ordinariness.



What criteria have you used to label things as extraordinary or ordinary? Have you been chasing an extraordinary and successful life, undervaluing your seemingly ordinary and repetitive daily life? If you have been labeling everything as good or bad, extraordinary or ordinary, success or failure, try peeling off those labels and observing things as they are. Stepping out of the binary world, the happiness and satisfaction of living authentically might naturally follow.

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