The Sublime of the Mundane

I recently got taken to task for being too mundane in this blog. You know, talking about laundry and sewing, children and food waste. I had not thought it was mundane. I realize it is not the most interesting subject matter but mundane?

Yes ( my anonymous critic) I do have some expensive degrees. I went to universityand seminary for knowledge – the knowledge of how to learn and think. I didn’t go to trade schools. I wish I had done so as well, because then I would have a job that paid sufficiently. But earning money is not the reason for learning to learn.

As for the mundane – I believe there are many of us who are facinated by the mundane. I don’t mean in that worrisome know-everything-about-the-Red-Sox way, but that we see the meaning of life in the mundane. We see the universe in a drop of water, perhaps. We see the underpinnings of society in children’s games and stories. We certainly see the hand of God in His Creation, right down to tadpoles and grains of sand. We see the happiness of our family groups and our social groups in homebaked bread and laundry hung out on a clothesline.

Those of us who love the mundane and live in it with joy have accepted that life is not about bigger, better experiences. Maybe we will never see Paris or Tokyo or even Vancouver. It just doesn’t matter. We don’t just stop to smell the roses, we live in rose gardens. Often, our journeys are within a small circuit, because for those of us who are Christians, we know that God has already given us heaven in Jesus Christ.

The simple sensory experiences are enough. Homemade cupcakes, fresh baked bread, an herb garden on a warm day. A garden chaos of tulips, star of bethlehem, lily of the valley, lilac. A green canopy of maple leaves overhead. Stars over the lake. Two dogs and a small child running around on the grass. A husband’s loving smile. Even the grey hair I see in the mirror and the scuffed comfortable boots I wear most days. All this is an acceptance of my life as I have lived it, and the gifts of joy the Lord puts before us.

I don’t want to live in a world where I must have anxiety over a lack of perfection (however perfection is defined that day). I like our world of surprises and changes; some of them have been scary,but the Lord has provided. I will let God look after perfection, and I’ll tend the small garden He put in my hands, imperfect and troubled as it may be at times; there is more joy than trouble in it.

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18 thoughts on “The Sublime of the Mundane

  1. Lovely post and so true. It is the happiness found in the small mundane things that gives a person peace of mind and not the big experiences. It is not wrong to sometimes do big splashy things if you have time and money to do so but a never-ending genuine appreciation of what is given makes you happy and contented. I think of a Swedish poet who wrote some small lines which I cannot translate so that they rhyme but the meaning is ‘there is beauty in a louse on a leaf of a tree behind an outhouse’. And there really is beauty in this and everything else in nature as I see it. There is beauty in having friends and relatives or in people smiling at you when you pass them in the street.

    I listen to a radio show on the subject of happiness and there was a man who researched what made people happy who said the same as you and me. Once you have your basic needs such as food, somewhere to live and clothes money does not matter very much for happiness. The people who were happiest were those who looked for happiness in small things even if you compared with those who had big goals in life and who had fullfilled them. For me goals play a very small role in feeling happy. I had two big goals as a child, leaving my home town and going to the university. I fullfilled both and although I am glad I did I am sure I could have found happiness anyway. I have one big goal left and that is having a family and I hope to fulfill it some day but if I don’t, I know I can always find happiness in other ways.

  2. I enjoy your blog! In fact, your food waste Friday postings have challenged me to be more careful with food and make sure that we are not just throwing it away because we didn’t get around to using it.
    Life is made up of the small pleasures, we bake all of our bread, and have done so for years, but when the first loaf comes out of the oven everyone is in the kitchen for a warm slice with butter and honey – I love the smell, the taste, the bringing together of everyone, the satisfaction of having made the bread, the simplicity of flour, water, yeast, salt, sugar and fat, combined to make a such a satisfying food!
    We hang out all of laundry, in fact the dryer died in January, and by choice we have not repaired it – there is the joy of listening to birds singing, bees buzzing, flowers blooming, sunshine on your face, wind blowing in your hair – celebrating the world the Lord has created for us – all this as I hang clothes to dry – what I would miss just shoving the clothes into the dryer, pushing a button and walking away.
    The miracle of our garden, a small seed planted and before you know it you have a full grown plant producing food for the family that is canned or frozen and feeds us for the coming year – warm earth under my feet, the wonderful smell of tomato plants, fresh corn on the cob, fresh strawberries and raspberries that taste like sunshine and make wonderful jams.
    Babysitting my lovely grandsons – what miracles of life – and what a blessing that we are able to see them almost daily – and how our 21 month old grandson loves the outdoors, visiting the chickens, going with grandpa to feed the cows – his little brother is only 7 weeks old so will enjoy these things as he gets older!
    Oh my – is my life ever mundane – but I wouldn’t trade it for the world – I count my blessings every day – and I see how the Lord has blessed our life and never cease to wonder at it all!

    Blessings,

    Martine

  3. I never thought of your site was mundane. I was always taught if you don’t have something nice to say, even in writing not to say at all. I have found there are things that I can use and some I do not but don’t feel the need to be…lets say rude. Maybe I just woke up on wrong side of bed hope not, its one of my boys birthday todayI was hoping that if I had questions on anything of suggestions if I can ask. By the way thanks for posting photo of bonnet..I asked but wasn’t sure if you had time to read post. Does it look shiny regularly or was it just the flash and is it itch/scratchy or soft, and breatheable. Blessing’s, Yvonna

    • The bonnet is not really shiny. It has a bit of gloss and it is not in any way itchy, scratchy or hot. I forget I’m wearing it at times. Like you, I have to ask myself if it’s me or the other person – am I overreacting for some reason of my own – pain, worry, listening to the wrong voice, etc.

  4. I wanted to write you to let you know how much I enjoy reading your blog. You are an inspiration to women trying to live a simplier life and live according to the Lord’s will. Thank you for sharing your knowledge.

  5. Nice post Magdalena. I too have an expensive degree that I don’t use. Colin too has a degree (ag. college) but wishes he had gone to trade school.

    Real life isn’t exciting. It is the mundane things that keep the world going. The people God gave me to look after expect to be fed everyday and most of them expect clean clothes too. This is ok. It’s the way we want it and we wouldn’t be happy trying to ‘have it all’ like the Feminists think we should. Give me the mundane over the exciting/change any day. I’ll make it beautiful/tasty/happy!!

  6. I would argue (that is what lawyers do, we argue) that the mundane is totally up to the person who reads it. I have never found sports to be all that interesting, but rather have found more intellectual reading to be interesting. I also like low key romance novels but that is a whole other story.

    The word mundane, as defined by Webster’s dictionary, is, “of or relating to the world; earthly; routine; ordinary; unexalted.” While I have not read the comment of the person that took your blog to task for being mundane, I would also argue that your blog is not ordinary, routine or relating to the regular world. Yours is a thinking blog that takes everyday experiences and expresses them in such a way as to make others think. It further provides a different perspective and allows for discussion.

    I would further argue that if the person who made the comment was from the United States that perhaps he should reread his First Amendment. Individuals are free to share what they think and if the reader finds it to be mundane, open up a path of interesting conversation or read something else.

    Kindness begins with accepting the unexpected and ends with sharing it with someone else.

  7. Don’t ever let critics decide what you should write on your own blog. I like hearing both the mundane and deep thoughts of people. Your blog is a nice mix which is why I keep coming back.

  8. I’ve been taking a great deal of joy in the mundane of late. I was laid off from a biotech corporate job last year and took up my part time job as a full time vocation (adjunct university instructor). I was blessed with time to myself, time at home, and rediscovered the mundane, and it saved my life. I cook at home, I am in the process of cleaning my house (for the first time really), I’ve divested myself of many accumulated possessions and sigh with relief. I wake up in the morning, dress for the day, put on my cap and my apron and feel this incredible sense of calm and purpose. So I say up with mundane!

  9. I so agree with you. No doubt, your anonymous critic would find my life ‘mundane’ as well, but I am content with my ever so small glimpses of heaven. Hearing children playing in the local school playground, drinking tea in the garden on a hot sunny day (quite rare here in UK! lol), picking in fresh smelling, dry washing at the end of the day, holding my husband’s hand when we go for a walk, laughing with friends, taking satisfaction in jobs well done …. the list could go on and on. To be content with what you have is not mundane – it’s heavenly.

  10. Magdalena,

    Don’t let the trolls wear you down. What so many fail to recognise that it is in the simple rhythm of the domestic sphere wherein the soul can be truly renewed if a person will open themselves up to it. All too often, people pour scorn on the simple, the everyday, the rhythms of living out of pure arrogance and superiority; if it doesn’t comply to the world’s standards of stimulation, engagement, excitement etc, it is completely worthless.

    I agree wholeheartedly with the commenters who actually took the time to define ‘mundane’ along with those who have shared their thoughts on the blessings found in simplicity, not to mention the way you infuse even the most everyday of tasks with a richness that is rarely witnessed. I have a blogger friend who writes on matters domestic and simple, modesty, homecraft, etc who is also an adept papercraftswoman. the scorn and taking to task she receives is jawdropping… Most of this scorn comes from supposedly ‘bright young things’ who think themselves above all this, liberated from the everyday and so on…

    One thing more we need to bear in mind, we are expressly called to do EVERYTHING to the glory of the Lord, from the taking of our meals to everything; it is Christ outworking through us and an act of service/worship. Whether I am hanging out the washing, baking bred, cooking a meal (proper cooking, not this ‘out of the box’ shanannigans), or writing a term paper, preparing a presentation or encourageing a struggling fellow student – or teacher for that matter, all is to be done for God’s glory, as if it is being done for our Heavenly Father explicitly.

    Blessings,

    Sarah.

  11. Thanks to all of you who offered your support here. I had no dissenting voices! Perhaps, like some old warhorse, I’m enjoying my days in pasture after all the excitement of the past. Odd, isn’t it, that many are looking at Buddhism and other mystical paths, when ordinary, garden-variety Christianity holds so much peace, joy and mystery? We are talking about the simplicity and peace that are promised in some of the more esoteric pursuits modern people are chasing, and we, in caps and aprons, needlework or clothesbasket in hand, have found it in our own backyards. God works little miracles everyday in our lives.

  12. How’s this for mundane. I’m cleaning my house for the first time really….ever….really. My friend turned me on to borax; specifically borax, dish washing liquid, white vinegar, and hot water. OMG borax and white vinegar should be a staple in any household. Forget about all the fancy chemically cleaners, this stuff is brilliant.

  13. Discovering your blog has been a great joy to me. My lifestyle, beliefs, principles and instincts are counter-culture, and I am often very lonely in the way I walk. What I long for, at times quite desperately, are other women who have caught the vision for Plain dress and a Plain way of life and speech. I do not know any, not one – except online.
    The stuff of life, perhaps especially for women, is made up of doing the laundry, the cooking, running the household, as well as whatever we do as the aspect of our calling that earns money. And dressing Plain in a society where it is unknown is an art to be learned.
    If my mother, my sister, my daughters, my aunts and my women friends and chruch congregation see this as an alien obsession, to whom will I turn for a sense of belonging except the community online?
    As I go about my day, washing, cooking, cleaning, running the household, caring for the family and earning my money, I am so comforted and cheered by the sense of having found a next door neighbour just over the fence here online.
    Please don’t change the way you write or your subject matter.
    May I humby suggest that the reader who finds it too mundane seeks out a site concerning itself with subjects loftier and more abstract than us chickens?

    • It was my own sister who criticized the blog for being too mundane. People do expect that if you have a theological education you must think only of the “loftier” subjects, and not be concerned with cooking, sewing, and housekeeping. But as the Buddhist proverb says, after enlightenment we still chop wood and carry water. I don’t intend to be in the ivory tower or have a popular television ministry. Even us little nobodies have the power of prayer as we share in the Lord’s great plan.

      Altough I live near large Amish and Menonite communities, I do not have friends in them, because their scope of travel is very small, and I am too far outside their towns. I am the only Plain person here myself. I get stared at on the street, which makes me laugh when the biker events are in town. I’m in black, too, just not leather and studs. I had the sensation last week of the crowds parting before me as I glided along calmly on my way to my daily errands, going to the post office and the grocery store. I was not intimidated at all, and people stepped out of my way – all these bad-looking dudes and chicks. I thought, “Well there – I’ve been a witness!”

      At first people will react to you as if you may have lost your mind. But go on becoming more sane, keeping your garden, so to speak, as best you can. They will realize that you haven’t lost your mind, but found it.

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