Romanticizing the Mundane: A Mission for Life


I thought I already published this...

I threw the laundry into the washing machine, made the bed, washed the dishes, and vacuumed. Then, with the cat beside me, I sat on the veranda, checking the want ads and the sales.  At noon I had lunch and went to the supermarket. There I bought food for dinner and, from a sale table, bought detergent, tissues, and toilet paper. At home again, I made preparations for dinner and lay down on the sofa with a book, waiting for Kumiko to come home.
Haruki Murakami, The Wind Up Bird Chronicle

Not the type of passage that’s typically quoted in books. And I understand if you’re perplexed. But I’m quoting this section of Haruki Murakami’s wonderful novel because I believe it demonstrates a philosophy of life that is very important for all of us. Allow me to explain. 

The novels of Murakami poise a somewhat stale imagery of the mundane life. Despite the fantastical elements that appear in his novels, these elements don’t manifest themselves in the day-to-day lives of the protagonists. Or, a better way to say it would be that magic doesn’t remove the ordinary. Things like making a sandwich, making coffee, and listening to music are as important as the talking cat and the mysterious cat finder that'd appear in his books. It’d be normal to expect that such a narrative might be boring. But, many readers (myself included) love Murakami’s work for this exact element.

Murakami has mastered the art of displaying the normal. Whether we like it or not, most of our lives these days aren’t exactly eventful. Especially, if we’re among the people who obey the societal norms and expectations. Our generally unremarkable life is stereotyped as boring, something not to aspire for. Our life stories are quite predictable, jumping from birth to school, college, job, and…job. That’s about it. There are prized moments we cherish, but the majority of our life is forgotten even to ourselves. As time passes and we reach the end of our journey, we look back at such a life and consider it a failure. 

The expectation we place on ourselves (or our environment places on us) makes us appreciate our current life less and less. We treat every stage of our life as a transitionary period. At middle school, we all wish to go to high school, hoping to have an extraordinary experience. Once we reach high school, we yearn for our college years. Once college arrives, we eagerly anticipate our single life. We live our entire lives waiting to transition into the next chapter until there’s nothing to transition to. Our life of waiting concludes with utter disappointment. 

Murakami’s works challenge this concept of a life of waiting. His characters often pay attention to the day-to-day mundanity of life. It’s not omitted from their stories because it is their story. The commutes, meals, drinks, and other mundanities of his characters offer a glimpse into their lives as much as their adventurous journeys. I’d even go as far as to say that it’s what humanizes Murakami’s characters. Murakami forces us to notice these things because he’s reminding us that he’s not building a fantasy world. Rather, he’s building an ordinary world where ordinary people dwell. Magic is merely a guest in that world. It’s not inherent to the environment. 

Much like Murakami’s stories, the magic or adventure of our lives is not the reason for our being. It is rather an entry in the grand journal of our existence. Sure, it’s more exciting than most events, but it shouldn’t be seen as the sole purpose of our lives. Daily life matters too. We must understand that in every day of our existence, there is a chance to be happy. Let us not wait for the grand adventure, the climax of our story that we think we are preparing for. Instead, let’s find some contentedness in the day-to-day. Let us appreciate the things we take for granted and the people we encounter every day. Let it be our mission that for every day of our existence, we seek to make it worth something. Every day is memorable if we choose to pay attention. 

Bad fate is bound to find us all. And I understand that it’ll be hard to sympathize with my message if you are in a bad place right now. But I know, no matter how horrible the fates we face, it’s only temporary. Neglecting the opportunities for joy we find in our lives is as detrimental as the bad fates we suffer. Take control of your day. Romanticize the mundane. You are the main character in your life. You’re not just your trials and tribulations. Your mundanity deserves your attention too. Write it down as if you are writing your next big novel. Narrate it to yourself. Savor that coffee you drink every day and take solace in knowing that the slow mundanity of your life is a sign of peace, not mediocrity. 

And finally….read Murakami’s books. 

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