The only difference between an extraordinary life and an ordinary one is the extraordinary pleasures you find in ordinary things – Veronique Vienne.
It seems to me that the key to that quote from Veronique Vienne is the word “find”. It is an action word that assumes that one is not sitting there waiting for things, and the associated pleasures, to come to them; it says that some overt effort is being made to seek out those pleasures.
The opening quote is really a variation on the old saw, “Stop and smell the roses.” It is stopping and making the effort to discover the extraordinary that is to be found in all things that brings the pleasure to life. While it is pleasurable to enjoy things like roses or great works of man or even other species of living things; I would submit that the saying might be much more meaningful and rewarding if it were phrased, “Stop and meet the people.”
It is in meeting other people that we have our most profound experiences of the extraordinary, because we can relate to their life experiences as if they were our own. We can imagine ourselves living their stories. It is really impossible to imagine yourself as a fish or maybe even living as a lion or elephant; but, one can imagine the life of the fisherman or living in Africa alongside the animals through the stories of other humans who live those lives. One only hears stories like those and imagines those extraordinary adventures if one makes the effort to stop and meet the people.
There was an old late 50’s and early 60’s TV show called Naked City and it’s closing tag line was something like, “there are a million stories in the Naked City and this has been one of them.” There are billions of people on earth and millions within this country and every one of them has a story, some of them quite extraordinary. Each of those stories allows us to escape the capsule of personal experiences that we live within and imagine new and different experiences, many of them extraordinary indeed.
Imagine meeting a refuge family from Iraq that just moved into your town. As you talk with them about their experiences you are whisked away in your mind to Aleppo, huddled in a bomb shelter or just taking cover under some rubble, with bombs dropping all around you. After the bombing has stopped, you are amazed to see children emerge and start kicking around a ball made of wadded up paper and tape; improvising a game of soccer in the midst of this chaos. How extraordinary is that?
Perhaps you meet an immigrant from an impoverished African country and you suddenly find yourself imagining walking across vast stretches of the plains and desserts in search of food and shelter. In their stories you experience living in the squalor of a refugee camp while awaiting your turn to apply for safety in another country and then the wonder and amazement, along with the fears and uncertainties, of coming to a country where there is food and shelter for all in need, but where you don’t understand the language or customs. What an extraordinary journey.
Maybe your travels bring you in contact with Native Americans and they share stories of their heritage and traditions. Perhaps you stop and take the time to talk with an African American who is protesting that black lives matter. You might encounter a member of the GLBTQ community and turn towards them to learn, instead of away from them to shun. It could be that just finding time to share your thoughts with a loved one – your hopes and fears, dreams and disappointments – is an extraordinary experience for you. Make the effort.
In each of these encounters there are people to meet, stories to be listened to and things to be learned. So, stop and meet the people and fill your life with the extraordinary pleasures found in sharing life experiences with others. Making that effort will certainly result in expanding your thinking and may even make you a better person for having listened to, and hopefully considered, that other persons point of view.
Stop and meet the people today and you will have an extraordinary life.