Ordinary man

I am an ordinary man. I had dreams of being more than ordinary, have, in my low times, pretended to be more, but I am ordinary to the root. When I was younger, time, I thought, would solve this. I would become a luminary. But I wasted time, and the time that I put in was of the distracted kind, the surface-gazing kind and I did not do the drilling work. Well, let me qualify here: I did do some of the hard work. I did plough through tomes, I did take notes, I wrote and studied, but being an ordinary man much escaped me that would not have escaped a luminary.

I have found a way to be content with this now. Although I admit to unease when in the company of great minds as I believe it may be difficult for great minds to befriend ordinary ones, unless great minds also possess great hearts—for these, history awaits. As it is an ordinary mind in possession of a great heart may befriend all. And here, I suppose, resides something of human hope and salvation.

white_mushroomMe, I remain a daydreamer; and as such, I have found, after a half-century and more, that I am something of a poet. And now as I look behind me, I wonder if I’ve always known this. My poems are not the sparkling kind, not outstanding. They are pedestrian and ordinary, but in this all that wasted time has found a home of sorts.

I have a notion that for poets, great or ordinary, there is no wasted time. What looks like idleness through the eyes of a pragmatist, is to me, mulling, moodling work. What looks like waste to an exceptional mind is, to me, reflection. What appears tedious to a lofty mind, to me is tinder for pondering. For as an ordinary man I have found this one thing to be true: That there is nothing unimportant. That everything matters. To the exceptional thinkers and doers of the day, this is foolishness. And I see their point. But it doesn’t make mine untrue.

As an ordinary man, wealth has not interested me the way it sometimes interests great minds. Wealth comes to great minds or to ordinary minds who are exceptional doers. I am neither. This is the only wealth that I crave: A small hearth, a warm hut, some patches of sky through ordinary poplar trees, morning mist on the fen, some ground with ivy, clover, common couchgrass, and room for tomatoes; fallen leaves and snow at the proper time; a red squirrel beneath the cabin floor, some birds in the trees; something to type on and a few books. These are riches enough. And a few friends, and ordinary peaceful days.


  1. Poetry, yours and other supposedly more extraordinary poetry, is only pedestrian and boring and ordinary to the hurried, the bored, and those who still have illusions of being extraordinary. To ordinary reflective intuitive people, the observations and insights of other ordinary reflective intuitive people resonate as profoundly as fresh air and sunlight resonate with the captive.

  2. As I get older, I find that things which I considered ordinary in earlier times, I now find to be extraordinary–and I now wonder how to define either. This includes people. But as for writing poetry, as Ted Kooser says, “there is a lot to be said for doing no harm.” And one person’s poem might be ordinary to some, and to another, be the reflection that alters life’s direction. Perhaps “ordinary” is relative, just like everything else.

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