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Steve Thorp
21st century soul
Published in
6 min readAug 30, 2022

There’s an idea of the ordinary that is articulated and embedded in the everyday.

Let’s expand.

In social media world the everyday is a chimera – an invention. We want our extraordinary lives to be seen as ordinary; even our ordinariness is to be the best and most authentic it can be!

In world of personal development and growth, nothing is ordinary. These days, we have to be talking of trauma or transformation — or preferably both. More broadly, we don’t just face a crisis, we are in a meta-crisis: a wicked, super-sticky, mega-difficult difficulty that takes earnest extraordinary ordinariness to get us through.

In another way of thinking, this is just a double-bind. A great big one, granted, but a double-bind nonetheless.

Nora Bateson put it like this on Facebook (13/8/22):

As it happens...

People, including friends, family, colleagues, strangers, public figures, unknown faraway people, intimate and up close people... All of us are contorting in the various pinches & punches of this era. History has made us all crooked trees. People are acting weird. They talk too much, they lie, they are obsessed with irrational ideas, they are high on hubris, and/or writhing in inner despair. It comes out as off, unacceptable, unlove-able... Behavior, like this, we are told, one should 'set boundaries' to.

But this is a time of difficult & confused. It is necessary to freak out & freak in - in order to unravel existing cultures & systems that have framed identity. This is the rotting time, the composting of old obligations, patterns, ideas.

I believe that the cadence of the future, the tone, the temperament, the set right now in how warm we are with each other as we get weird and difficult.

Everything depends upon this warmth.

I spend a lot of my energy, I realise, railing against the hubris and the ‘talking too much’. These people talking with earnest certainty, inventing ideas that become brands that have no real centre to them. Ideas that, in the telling, lose the crooked humility that is necessary for our times.

Perhaps, I should have more compassion? When activists rail against ‘ideas’ and call again and again for urgent action NOW! - they are only speaking from their despair; from the futility of their own failure. Our own failures. They recognise — and do not recognise — that for all their ‘action’, and all the ideas of those who talk too much, nothing substantial has changed.

The complex muddle that we call a ‘system’, simply smoothes over all our anger and co-opts it as another strand of brand. It takes our deepest existential concerns, seeded in the worst fears and traumas that human beings experience, and turns them into adverts, opinion pieces and performative talking heads.

How, then, to bring this all down to Earth? Nora writes:

I believe that the cadence of the future, the tone, the temperament, the set right now in how warm we are with each other as we get weird and difficult.”

Or I might put it another way: how do we flow through the world, in full awareness and knowledge of what is going down, and find ourselves able to tolerate, challenge and respond to the weirdness in ourselves and others as we go?

If my friend turns weird and starts prepping for the apocalypse; or coats their walls with special paint to fend off EMR and 5G (whilst posting about it on the internet); or buys herbs and potions and supplements to ward off and immunise the various viruses and bacteria that will still, nonetheless, infect them; or even denies that global warming is a thing – can I NOT judge them as a person? Can I still speak with them warmly in the “cadence of the future”?

I don’t know. In my head, I sneer; shake my head at them; despair at their specific ignorance and naivete and at the global dying of reason. And then I become my own version of weird – without warmth and isolated from myself as much as from the world.

The way I am thinking about it is that I/we must start in the ordinary; start off being ordinary. And this is about a lack of aspiration (in one direction) and the tindered spark of a kind of relational aspiration (in the other).

See, I have aready set up a binary. Let’s have another go.

To be embedded in the ordinary is to learn the relational ‘cadence’ of the everyday. This is tinged with a domestic quality – something that begins in the kitchen, maybe, with a flavour, or a child or friend to take care of, or in the garden, kneeling in the earth, tracking the growth of something we’ve planted or cavorting with bees, or playing music with or to others.

It doesn’t need to stay there, but begins with this recognition of how and where we are embedded. It’s a world of others, in other words, and nothing needs to be transformed, because nothing can be different right now.

Things might be different in the future, but only if we trust the ordinariness of our concerns and don’t get too ambitious, grandiose or fixated on one path or another. We can trust that in the infinite variety of ordinary things that human and other beings do lies the potential for the future to be different from how it is today.

The difference, though, must be ordinary too. Utopias sound lovely in theory, but utopias are grand visions – political, ecological, sociological – with fixed points and developing dogmas. There is nothing ordinary about Utopia – it exists somewhere out there, up there – somewhere to be reached and explored by heroes.

What was it that Ursula LeGuin said about motherhood? Mothers can’t be Heroes…?

I’d like to think that Ursula’s habitual tongue in cheek made her give the word an H — in emphasis at least! Of course, she knew that mothers are heroesheroic every day. They are ordinary heroes (though not the only ones) who have to work out how to hold and find their way through all the mess and muddle of everyday life.

And that is the point, of course. If we (all of us, not just mothers) are involved in and engaged with the ordinary weirdness, difficulties and confusion, then we have less truck with the grandiose – the ‘big’ idea, the explorer, the entrepreneur, the influencer, the politician––and more time in the ebb-and-flow of ordinary time.

The thing is, the people who think they are extraordinary or aspire to be so, can miss something essential about being human. They might (or might not!) be brilliant in this sphere or another, but they lack – to use Rob MacNamara’s word – ‘elegance’.

Elegance, as in the state of mind and being that sees how things join up — not in some systems diagram or clever model of complexity — but in the way the thing that appears in the here-and-now can be met, learned from and related to. In the ways that people can sit with each other and talk (or not talk). In the ways we can be in relationship with the world.

All these — and yet none of them are ‘in order’ for anything to emerge or to be solved or dealt with. Rather that the conditions may emerge that allow us to recognise where we might be flowing and, therefore, what might be required of us – ordinarily – along the way.

Nora writes of the “…the rotting time, the composting of old obligations, patterns, ideas.”

Rotting comes with dying and death, too, is such an ordinary part of existence. The challenge of our times might, therefore be more about grief than transformation.

Maybe there will be transformation on the other side of grief, but we won’t ever see it from this side of the wall. We have to trust that ordinary living and dying – and BEING with these with as much presence as possible, will get us through to somewhere.



Steve Thorp
21st century soul

Integral counsellor & poet. Warm Data host. Edits Unpsychology Magazine & COVID Poetics on Medium.