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About Time: Father and Son

In the movie About Time, a father reveals to his son the power to time-travel. It is an intriguing premise, and it makes you wonder what you would do with such a power. How would you travel; to where or what time would you return? But as the movie continues, we find it isn’t “about time” at its heart, it is about our relationship with people in time. Therefore the Father is wise enough to give his son some advice about how to use this power:

You should live an ordinary life, living it day by day, like anyone else, but to live every day again almost exactly the same, the first time with all the tensions and worries that stop you noticing how sweet the world can be. But the second time… noticing.

To Live an Ordinary Life?

What does it mean to live an ordinary life in a culture obsessed with the illusions of extraordinary? Julie Canlis writes beautifully if not sparingly to this in her booklet, “Theology of the Ordinary“, saying that at long last we are seeing “a cultural weariness with the cult of extraordinariness”.

No one wants to see someone on reality TV minding his own business, taking naps when he/she needs to, commuting to a boring job that pays the bills and keeps children in school, loving his neighbour, and helping manage the church finances. Ordinary life is… well, another synonym for mediocre? This is [our] suspicion…

What a burden it must be in our day to continually present extraordinariness as a mark of our uniqueness. In a world where everyone must be extraordinary, no one is. It is akin to being a superhero on a planet of superheroes. Suddenly one finds oneself not so super. One is reduced (rightsized?) to being ordinarily heroic, as each one is capable now. Canlis encourages:

When we live our lives as ordinary persons, we become an extraordinary picture to the world of what we were intended to be: God and humanity united together in heart and purpose.

The Epiphany

Indeed, by the end of the movie, even the son has a revelation:

I think I’ve learned the final lesson from my travels in time; and I have even gone one step further than my father did. The truth is now I don’t have to go back at all, not even for the day. I just try to live every day as if I’ve deliberately come back to this one day, to enjoy it as if it was at the full final day of my extraordinary, ordinary life.

And there you have it: live the full day of an extraordinary ordinary life. It reminds me the the last line of Mary Oliver’s poem The Summer Day:

Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?

What will you do with your wild and precious life – your extraordinary ordinary life – your life created not just for you, but to be with the One who made you for Himself – the One in whom we find our wild, precious, and ordinary life endowed with dignity against the onslaught of anything that would cause us to forget this.

What will you do?

For more see “On Ordinary Canvass“.

Credit to Ken Shigematsu who writes about the movie “About Time” in the chapter on Gratitude in his book “Survival Guide for the Soul,” and who inspired me to give this more thought here.