(My) Ordinary Life is Good

…Mr. Landau dismantles common myths and offers strategies to help people find greater purpose in their own lives. Systematically, he refutes the usual arguments as to why life is pointless: Since the universe is so vast and we’re so tiny, nothing that we do matters … no one will remember us; everything we do and treasure will one day perish from the earth. None of these deters Mr. Landau from his rational, philosophical argument for why each individual’s life is meaningful…

Mr. Landau notes that all such concerns are animated by the same mistaken belief: that a valuable life must necessarily be a perfect one. “According to this presupposition,” he writes, “meaningful lives must include some perfection or excellence or some rare and difficult achievements.” Those who despair of life’s meaning can’t see the value in the ordinary; only lives of greatness such as Michelangelo’s or Lincoln’s can be worthwhile.

As Mr. Landau observes, such perfectionism sets a standard for meaningfulness that is nearly impossible to attain. He mentions a talented biologist he knows who considers her life wasted because she didn’t reach the very top of her field. Perfectionism’s other, more odious, problem is its elitism: It assumes that some lives have more worth than others. Though clearly wrong, a version of this idea is deeply embedded in our secular culture. A meaningful life, we’re constantly told, lies in worldly success: going to certain colleges, landing certain jobs and living in certain communities. Mr. Landau doesn’t spell it out, but he seems to understand where this flawed assumption leads. Does the life of a child with Down syndrome have less value than the life of a healthy child? Is a retail clerk leading a less meaningful life than, say, Elon Musk? A perfectionist would have to say yes and yes. But Mr. Landau wisely points out that it’s cruel and misguided to hold ourselves or others to this standard for meaning, because it neglects each life’s inherent worth. […]

In “Finding Meaning in an Imperfect World,” Mr. Landau presents a much-needed lesson in humanity and compassion. Don’t beat yourself up if you fail to achieve your lofty goals, he urges; instead, celebrate the value of an ordinary life well lived. In the same way you don’t have to become a monk or nun to be a good Christian, you don’t have to be a Shakespeare or Rockefeller to lead a good life. Holding your child’s hand, volunteering in your community, doing your job, appreciating the beauty around you—these are the wellsprings of meaning all of us can tap.

~ Emily Esfahani Smith, in her book review titled “Review: Redefining a Well-Lived Life” of “Finding Meaning in an Imperfect World” by Iddo Landau (August 1, 2017)

Photo: Hard Rock Hotel in Pattaya, Thailand via Eclecticitylight. Thank you Doug.



  1. yes. yes.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. If one is wise enough to recognize the beauty in these moments…

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Sounds imminently rational when presented in this way. Now to embrace…therein lies the rub.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Great advice! 👏

    Liked by 1 person

  5. roseanne333 says:

    Oh, David, I loved this. Again, for me, it comes back to the Ordinary becoming Extraordinary. It’s all in our perspective, having a sense of awe, and gratitude.

    Liked by 3 people

  6. Agree with it all. I believe it’s why some people are much happier than others….

    Liked by 1 person

  7. So timely! You have no idea. I know it’ll hit me sooner or later. It did 10 years ago when I was in retail. And now I’m back in retail. I’ve been too busy and too tired to think about all that yet.
    When i interviewed I told my boss that I’m about to say something I know is against anything but I’ll say it anyway, now that It’ll be in management and I’m responsible for others I only want my team to leave physically tired at the end of the day. Not disrespected, not shoved around, and their life outside of here matters. And if it is an expectation that I do the opposite then I’m not sure I want this job. Then I added that bottom line we’re not doing “anything” that serves humanity in any way shape or form. We are selling luxury items to people that happen to have the money.

    I found my meaning!

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Yes, yes and yes! So many people become miserable because they have the mistaken idea that they are not worthwhile. I have to agree with Roseanne. Gratitude. Ordinary is extraordinary. Perspective is everything.
    What a great way to start my day!

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Ordinary is extraordinary.
    Providing the…grace…is extra extraordinary.

    Liked by 2 people

  10. Although I agree, I must admit that the outlook is a bit elitist as well. It’s hard to be grateful for the ordinary in the face of poverty, racism, hunger, misogyny, drug abuse, and the list goes on. It’s easier to be reverent of the ordinary when basic physical and health needs are met. Honoring the ordinary within ourselves is an important starting point, but for me the next step is to nurture the collective ordinary of our potentially extraordinary communities. It’s hard to do – to leave my comfort zone and be curious about another’s story, to risk the pain, to roll-up my sleeves in the support of someone else’s ordinariness.

    Liked by 2 people

  11. Ordinary effort matters. Reminds me of this parable…

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Yup! Just be good to others and be happy.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Jean Vanier has some interesting things to say about this as well.

    Liked by 1 person

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