Mainly as an act of self-preservation, I’ve been trying to spend more time with Tux, my cat. I’ve decided to play with him when I get home so that I can choose the game. All the games he chooses seem to involve claws and teeth, so he always wins. Also on the program is giving him some lap time in the evening when he’s constitutionally available for lap time, as opposed to those times when he’s constitutionally available for running back and forth between the bedrooms. And I’m trying to do it more regularly, as part of my ordinary.
Liturgically, the ordinary consists of those things that happen the same way at the same time during each mass or each day or each year. Which could make something ordinary in the sense of everyday or boring or in the sense of unexceptional due to a lack of care or thought. On the other hand, a routine can help us pay attention to where we are.
I was sitting on my office floor the other day and noticed my copy of The Little Prince. At one point in the story, the fox asks the little prince to tame him, an act that requires the little prince to visit the fox at the same time every day. “If you come at just any time, I never know at what hour my heart is to be ready to greet you,” the fox says.
If we sit down to write or meditate or eat dinner with our family at the same time each day, our hearts will be ready for whatever the activity is, and according to the fox, we’ll be able to enter more deeply into whatever it is we’re doing: “One only understands the things one tames,” he says.
I think I’ll try to make 2014 a little more ordinary.
I just asked my cat if he would like to curl up in my lap and act inspirational while I write. He replied by knocking my pen off the table.
That’s the great thing about being a cat: you somehow manage to be charming by failing to fulfill any social obligations. Humans do not have this luxury, especially during the current extreme sports season of gathering and gifting. Everyone is competing in at least a heptathlon—sending cards, buying presents, attending parties, caroling, baking.
I’ve found that the key to an enjoyable holiday season is focusing on the aspects that you’re really good at. For me, one shining skill stands out above all the others: eating.
In these health conscious days, where would all the cookie bakers be without people like me to consume their wares? Who would support the red and green sprinkle industry and ensure the Red No. 5 factories stayed open?
And imagine a holiday party at which no one touched the spinach dip. Don’t linger on that thought lest you lose your good cheer.
In fact, an expert eater may be the person most likely to go the distance. Consider: the season starts with the biggest feast day of the year, Thanksgiving, the one day of the American calendar devoted solely to cooking and eating. Then as soon as you’ve finished the leftovers, the first party arrives. Hanukkah gelt fills in any momentary gaps, and even the decorations are edible—gingerbread houses, candy canes.
So though my Christmas cards remain scanty and my shopping last minute, I think I’m sitting right at the heart of the season.