The Ordinariness of the Ordinary

It is much easier to think the uncanniness of the uncanny, and even the uncanniness of the ordinary, than it is to think the ordinariness of the ordinary. Its self-evidence is itself opaque, and in its self-evident plainness we pass over it to the extraordinary, even if it is only the extraordinariness of the ordinary. Its obviousness resists interpretation, it is, after all, already obvious. Yet how it is obvious is concealed. How it became so, how its obviousness can be so plain as to be self-evident already to everyone.

Being* as the infinitive of “I am”: that is, understood as an existential, means to dwell near…, to be familiar with. . . . Being-in is thus the formal existential expression of the being of Da-sein ^ which has the essential constitution of being-in the-world.

Heidegger, Martin (2012-07-30). Being and Time – Sein und Zeit (Kindle Locations 1007-1008). . Kindle Edition.

How this familiarity, this ability to dwell without dwelling-on, is itself opaque and indeterminate as to how it arises. The uncanniness of the ordinary, by contrast, is easily teased out from invalid assumptions, non-rational bases of our thinking that are highly questionable. But the ordinariness of it, that despite such concealments it is plain and already understood in an ordinary, everyday way, is completely incomprehensible.

That we are far from things, that we are isolated, is easy to imagine and project, but the nearness of the familiar, without which that projection loses its innate pathos, is itself left as inconsequential. Yet in the mattering of the familiar we find our most intimate nearness to things and our most intimate being-with-others, a nearness and familiarity that makes even angst largely an adolescent fantasy, albeit a disclosive one. And yet ascribing any kind of mystery to it is to bring it into the realm of the uncanny and thus again to pass over its self-evident plainness, to de-familiarize ourselves with its familiarity, as though that could help us in some way in understanding that familiarity. We can never understand what we set aside in an interpretation, yet even the question appears to require us to do exactly that. The plain man, the most ordinary experiencer of the ordinary, would find the question absurd: what is there to question in what already shows itself clearly in the light of clear self-evidence? But doesn’t the plain man thus conceal himself in his own self-evident ordinariness?

How can we let the self-evidence of the ordinary simply be self-evident, but in a less opaque manner? No explanation can help, firstly because in explaining we detour around that which we are attempting to understand. We understand it no better, worse perhaps, when we ascribe something like understanding to what merely traces its development. In the ordinariness of the ordinary this is exacerbated in that familiarity only develops with the initially unfamiliar, but what we are trying to understand is the self-evidence of the always already ordinary and plain, not the evident understanding of that which we have expressly developed an understanding of from initial unfamiliarity.

The self-evident is shown in and as the ordinary. What remains concealed is precisely the provenance of the self-evidence that has already revealed the ordinary as ordinary, already shown it as both what it is, and shown it to be unworthy of further attention, and in what that showing itself consists. The ordinariness of the ordinary is plain for all to see, but in what kind of light can it already appear as a clear showing that also conceals it, protecting it from further attention?

In the science whose job it is ostensibly to study the psyche, there is a simplistic posit that familiarity arises from pre-rational or non-rational development, primarily in childhood, described as ‘intuitive’ understanding and then left as unquestioned as to what a non-understood understanding might amount to. Beyond minimal demonstrations that appear both naïve and presumptive, the proof of this notion is taken no further, presumably for the same reason, as self-evident the ordinary requires no further investigation. Yet, when its importance to human beings is taken into account, this only appears to demonstrate the contempt which familiarity is said to breed. What of this appearance of contemptuous ignorance of what is nearest to us? Human beings also display a need for the familiar, a dependence on it that could be said to be the most common addiction of all. Is this apparent contempt equivalent, then, to the pseudo-contempt of addicts for precisely what they are addicted to? It is ordinary, plain, uninteresting, like the “junk”, “dust”, etc. that addicts devote their lives to acquiring and consuming. It betrays an importance to us that we are at pains to protect, to dissemble.

In reading Heidegger’s analytic of everydayness, we have a sensation afterwards of the content slipping away: we had thought we had it, yet it appears to become ersatz and disappear. Yet is this a function of the text or is it an experience of ourselves slipping away from that understanding, like a thief caught in his most basic honesty, slipping away from the scene empty handed so as to not take the treasuredness of the treasure from it? Is the self-evidence of the self-evident, the familiar, precisely this concealed treasuring of what is itself in the most plain of plain sight?




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