In a concentration camp where our freedom has been taken away from us our powers are reduced to the thoughts that we create in our heads. In such circumstances if we want to stay alive, doing being ordinary has to be doing nothing that draws attention to the prison guards. If we are imprisoned according to the laws of this country the best way we can help ourselves is to follow the rules and make no attempt to rebel. That is what doing being ordinary means if you want to be released as soon as possible. In other words we work at fitting into a law-abiding society.
Exceptional men and women have to do being ordinary in their own special way. This means getting to know themselves very well by constant self-examination, especially learning from their mistakes. They gradually assemble a set of rules they choose to live by that help them to maintain looking after themselves as a first priority.
Such people understand many kinds of doing ordinary because they constantly study human habits. The better they know themselves the more use they are to other people. They rarely need to ask anyone else for advice because they have had enough experience to trust their own judgements, but at the same time they are always open to new ideas. This enables them to grow and develop and manage their own particular prejudices and negative sides.
They are never anything but themselves whoever they talk with. Titles, ceremonial garments and special kinds of oratory do not impress them. They never become “do gooders” although they are as pleased as anyone else if something they have done has been useful to someone else and at the same time they put their own wellbeing first. They never become martyrs nor are they victims if they can help it. They worship no-one and nothing but they recognise everything that is beautiful and revel in it. They prefer to work alone and they rarely join groups. Einstein was such a one and so was Victor Frankel. The good that they do is not deliberate but the result of having a great virtue: that they set a good example without realising they have done it. That, I believe is the highest kind of doing being ordinary. This kind of ordinariness is the extreme of extraordinary. Another kind of anentiodromia.
When we want to help people we must first consider what our motives are. Many of us are drawn into the so-called ‘caring professions’ because they think they want to help people, or because they have been bludgeoned into accepting beliefs that have more to do with keeping other people under their control than improving their lives.
If we are not on good terms with ourselves, we can be sure we will not be good for other people. All the talking and cajoling in the world cannot be beaten by behaving well ourselves.