In the calendar of the Church, Ordinary Time is that part of the year between the seasons of Advent, Lent, Easter, and Pentecost. Perhaps it seems less momentous to some, but Ordinary Time is no less important, offering as it does “time for growth and maturation.” Far from being a lesser time, I find it beautiful and filled with opportunity. Less noticed, perhaps, but certainly not less important. People live throughout a whole year, and not merely in particular seasons. Advent approaches, and beautiful it always is, but the Ordinary Time to follow is no less important.
For policymakers, the secular equivalent of Ordinary Time (and it’s quite a climbdown, by the way, as the state will never be so important as private life) is the time without momentous events – without projects, budget hearings, or elections. However important projects, budget hearings, and elections are, they’re only part of the year.
Old Whitewater – a state of mind, not a person – has never seemed to care much for the secular equivalent of Ordinary Time: policy in the city has been clustered around big moments more than best practices, announcements over daily actions, and milestones over the distance between the miles.
That’s why something like after the referendum is better – for everyone – than before the referendum, or after the budget is better than before the budget, so to speak.
Now anyone who’s been long in this town knows that Old Whitewater prefers a high and narrow perimeter fence, where a few people set the terms of discussion. From this perspective, mention of discussion and debate in ordinary life, outside the agenda of a few, truly looks more like a threat than an opportunity. It’s a measure of Old Whitewater’s social and cultural myopia that it sees America – vibrant, dynamic, inquisitive – this way. Truly, it’s a deep misunderstanding of America’s political, legal, and social heritage.
Old Whitewater’s high water mark was some years ago, perhaps around 2007, just before the Great Recession began. It’s taken years for the effects of that recession – effects still felt across Whitewater – to erode the boosterism that gripped the city in that earlier time. Some still try to carry on as though nothing has changed these years since, but theirs is a feeble and futile effort. Erosion works slowly yet decisively all the same.
America is admirable in her centuries-long development of liberty – of thought, discussion, and action. Our best times – of hope and opportunity – aren’t only grand times – they’re also ordinary times.
There are still significant policy matters to address (at the university most notably), but not everything is a big event.
In the ordinary moments yet ahead, there’s good and positive work to be done: fixing up this, picking up that, tidying all up.