To paraphrase Esther Dyson:
"The most interesting lessons often lie in the mundane—those aspects of everyday life that locals take for granted and visitors tend to overlook."
Many writers, poets and philosophers have praised the mundane.
Mundane is down-to-earth, solid, steady, predictable, comforting.
As humans, most of our lives will be filled with the mundane rather than the exciting or surprising. So we should be able to glean some wisdom from it.
Reddit user cadouxmoring8 asked:
"What's your profound life lesson from a mundane moment?"
Wouldn't Want To Be Ya
"When you run into a really terrible person in the service industry, you only have to deal with them for a short time."
"You don’t have to be them 24/7—which is much worse."
Help If You Can
"At the beginning of the pandemic, this elderly lady asked me to help her find something in the grocery store. The item she was looking for was about 20 feet away, so I showed her to it and asked which brand she wanted, then I put it in her basket."
"She grabbed my hand and looked so intensely at me while thanking me. She said nobody usually stops to help her and my parents must have raised me right."
"I still tear up when I think about her, how something that took me maybe 30 seconds meant that much to her. It's quite sad how elderly people are dismissed."
Don't Focus On The Negative
"I was taking my kids somewhere and realized I forgot something... Nothing major, I don't even remember what it was now."
"I said 'shoot! I forgot (thing)!' Not mad but annoyed with myself."
"My 11-year-old pats my leg and says 'but you remembered everything else!'."
"My little Zen master kiddo (who is ADHD, dyslexic and on the autism spectrum) reminded me to not focus on the one negative part of the many things I did that morning."
Use Your Gifts
"I was at a store last summer, and an elderly woman was trying to get a packet of crackers down from a high shelf. They were pushed back from the edge, and she was trying to snag them with a thin box."
"I said, 'Excuse me, would you like some help?'."
"I'm 6'4", she's maybe 5'2", so she looks up at me and says, 'Yes, please!'."
"There were several packages, so I asked how many she would like."
"I got them down, then moved the next 2 to the front—former grocery stocker, I still 'block' the shelves sometimes."
"She looked me in the eye, smiled, and said, 'Thank you, young man. You're a good one'."
"I'm 51. The 'young man' comment felt really nice."
Don't Kick Someone When They're Down
"My friend broke a finger when we were playing in the house as young kids. They came home with a splint and I looked at them and said 'that looks so stupid'."
"My dad heard me and chewed me out saying you never say that to a friend, or anyone for that matter. And he pushed me off of his lap and told me to go apologize."
"One of my biggest life lessons actually, which is don't hate on your friends when they're down. I think I really started to engage with empathy after I said my apology and realized how much my laughter and lack of seriousness in that situation hurt my friend."
"Just don't laugh at people in pain, maybe help them instead of laughing you know?"
"I was maybe 6 at the time but I learned that lesson really hard and felt a lot of guilt for laughing at my friend who was seriously hurt."
Ask For Help
"Asking for help is not a weakness—it's looking after yourself.
"I lost my husband in July 2022. We have 2 boys together. Our eldest had diagnosed ADHD and anxiety issues surrounding his dads death (very sudden and being treated)."
"I have so much trouble with his behaviour. I am the brunt of all of his poor behaviour and his lack of understanding or want to understand."
"I finally broke last week and called my late husband's mother asking her to please take him for a week so that I can have a break. She was more than happy to and said it is OK to ask for this because 'You are doing it all alone'."
"My girlfriends also rallied around when my youngest broke his leg on a weekend. One came to the ER with me to entertain my eldest while I dealt with my youngest and then stayed the night to help us settle."
"Another girlfriend came over the next day with lunch and just hung out."
"Help will be given if you just ask for it."
Think For Yourself
"One time in second grade, the teacher told all the students to come get a piece of paper and put it in our backpack. The first kid got up and took the paper, but walked back to his desk.
"The second kid did the same thing. And each kid that followed."
"I grabbed the paper and then walked over to my backpack, but then I looked at the other kids and doubted whether or not I was doing what I was supposed to do with the paper. I decided I’d take the paper back to my seat."
"Every kid after me went up and grabbed the paper from the teacher and went back to their seat, too. The teacher remarked that each one of us had ignored the second part of her clear instructions."
"She even mentioned that I almost did what she said, but then I also fell in and followed the rest. She wasn’t mad, more just astonished at the way it all happened."
"That’s one time I learned the importance of independent critical thinking and trusting yourself."
Other People Have Bad Days
"I've worked at a lot of call centers plus random retail. If someone calls me upset or angry, I immediately think 'wow, they must be having a hard day'."
"I don't take it personally, try to help, and give encouragement."
"That reframing instead of becoming defensive has turned my life around. I'm calmer and have less stress and a more positive outlook."
Everyone Is The Main Character
"Each person is the main character in the story of their life."
"Remembering that can go a long way towards humanizing other people."
"I think this is an important one and I think about it occasionally."
"Every other human on earth has a life as complex as our own."
"Their struggles or experiences might be different, but we’re all living rich lives, with all our own goals and motivations."
Don't Make Things Harder
"I think it was in 9th grade when a teacher handed out a test. The instructions at the top said to read all of the questions before beginning the test."
"The questions started off pretty normal, but became more interesting as you went down the page—things like 'go do this math problem on the chalkboard' and 'stand up, jump up, and sit back down, mark when you've done this'."
"So every few minutes someone would get up to do the thing. Or flip the page over to draw a thing on the back of the paper. Or whatever the question said."
"Remember I said that we were supposed to read the whole test before beginning?"
"The last instruction said to ignore all of the other questions, write your name at the top, and turn it in. It was a lesson in following instructions."
It's Not Personal
"Teacher here. Was hit with a phone call from a parent, chewing me out for something that I wasn’t around for."
"I’m on the verge of tears after about 20 minutes, thinking about how unfair it was… and then it hit me."
"Her being upset had nothing to do with me."
"People yell and lash out because they’re frustrated about something, and they don’t feel heard. It’s really helped me not to take things so personally and has given me the ability to be more patient with people."
Sometimes Family Chooses You
"My neighbors were crappy parents. Their kids were always at my house because I had a big yard with a basketball hoop and swings."
"They'd just leave while their kids were playing in my yard. The youngest was 3 and the oldest was 12—five kids all of varying ages."
"It got to the point they stayed at my house more than they were at home. Spent the night a lot in the summer. I even drove them to their sports events and helped them with their homework."
"I was in my early 20s. I'm 40 now, they're all grown and their kids call me uncle. They still come visit me sometimes."
"I probably had no business practically raising those kids myself, especially when we were trying and failing to have kids of our own. We were definitely too poor to be feeding that many kids, but we made it work."
"Wouldn't change it for the world. Sometimes the best family is the ones you choose. And sometimes they choose you."
Your Mundane = Someone Else's Dream
"I have 2 kids. I had an Aunt come visit me about a year after I had my first. She wanted to help with everything. At one point it got a little annoying, but never too bad."
"So she’s in the nursery changing my daughter’s diaper. I’m watching on the baby monitor. My daughter being her normal giggly self."
"And my Aunt was talking to her. About how she loved being able to change her because she could never have kids herself. Making jokes about how if she could have kids what diaper brands they’d wear."
"Just stuff like that. It was something I did 6-8 times a day if not more. And my Aunt had the biggest smile on her face doing it."
"Because she got to take care of a baby. Something she always wanted to do but never could."
"I bawled my eyes out."
Be The Pigeon
"So, picture this: I'm stuck in this traffic apocalypse, right? And there's this pigeon just chilling on a wire, not giving a coo about the chaos below."
"Lesson learned: be the pigeon. Who cares about life's traffic when you can perch above it with some zen vibes?"
"Forget road rage; embrace pigeon calmness. It's all about rising above the drama, my dude."
"Life's too short for stressed feathers, after all."
Find Your Own Joy
"I was waiting for a tram and it was late. Peak hour. Everyone just wants to get home. Everyone is irritable."
"A young girl walks down the footpath in front of me, listening to music. She's dancing along, spinning around, mouthing the words and just so joyful."
"I think about it often. Enjoy the moment."
"Don't care what is around you. Find a way to destress when everyone around you is stressed."
"Each person is the main character in the story of their life."
...also helps me when feeling embarrassed or self-conscious.
Every day people make mistakes that they find mortifying, but do we all notice? And even if we do notice in the moment, how quickly do we forget?
That's how the rest of humanity views our flubs and foibles. We're embarrassed, but no one else really noticed or cares.
It's just not that serious.
What life lessons have you learned from daily life?