Imperceptibly Obvious Experience

Apr 17 2020

Life stories are made up of big events, but living is day-to-day.

Late writer David Foster Wallace captures this idea in his 2005 college commencement speech. He observed, “The most obvious, important realities are often the ones that are hardest to see and talk about.”

I am intrigued by Wallace’s observation. I agree.

In the speech, he refers to the day-to-day trenches of adult existence and unpacks the reality of the “day in and day out.” At one point, he says,

There happens to be whole, large parts of adult American life that nobody talks about in commencement speeches. One such part involves boredom, routine and petty frustration. The parents and older folks here will know all too well what I’m talking about.

If I may repeat/adapt that observation, when it comes to Jesus’ experience, there happens to be whole, large parts of his adult life that nobody talks about. Boredom, routine and petty frustration are imperceptibly obvious in Jesus’ story as well as our own.

Implicit in this observation is a small, quiet encouragement. It echoes through David Foster Wallace’s speech. Choose to pay attention.

Give attention to those imperceptibly obvious parts that make up a significant part of adult life. The tedium of adult living will drive us senseless, unless we engage our senses to that routine and petty frustration as a meaningful part of life.

In fact, when we pay attention to Jesus and to one another through that tedium, it is one of the most costly, loving acts we can perform in our brief existence.

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