Rare and Ordinary

Rarity is a measure of the value of something. For some reason, we go by the logic that the less there is of a thing, the more valuable it must be. This has become an irrevocable law of economics: when supply is limited, the price goes up.

People kill over a rare diamond. A fungus can fetch a staggering price in an auction because it happens to be an unusually large black truffle. Put a limited edition stamp on anything and we wouldn’t mind paying a ridiculous amount for it. After all, there could only be 500 people on the entire planet who would own that and you’re one of them. That’s got to mean something.

The same logic applies to events. If it’s a once in a lifetime occasion, then it must be monumental. So we go over the top in celebrating high school proms, debuts, graduations, weddings and other momentous events that merit an expensive dress. Well technically, a wedding doesn’t fall under the once-in-a-lifetime category for a lot of people but it’s still rated as one of the most life-changing (and costliest) things that could happen to you.

And yet it’s fascinating that a depiction of the ordinariness of everyday life could enthrall us and hold us in awe.

There’s currently an art exhibit in SM Megamall entitled Ode to the Blue Moon. A blue moon, the second full moon in a month, just occurred in January. This only comes about once every two and a half years, hence apparently warranting an exhibit in its honor.

One of the most captivating paintings there is of a woman feeding chickens in the backyard. She’s wearing a crimson malong over a white shirt and slippers with flower designs on the straps. Her hair is pulled back in a bun, with a light green headband keeping stray hairs in place. Her right hand, adorned with a white bracelet, is extended in the act of scattering chicken feed while her left arm clasps the food container. Behind her is a simple wooden house, the roof mostly made of nipa with a rusty, corrugated galvanized iron sheet covering one area.

What makes the painting interesting is the wealth of details: the red plastic bucket of assorted biscuits recycled as a container of chicken feed, empty bottles of Coke and Beer na Beer arranged on one side of the house, blouses and worn jeans on a clothesline, a pile of coconuts, the rubber of a bicycle tire slung on a tree branch, a scrunchie hanging on a nail, a broad-leafed shrub that barely made it to the frame.

Even the chickens are captured in their feeding time power play: the roosters get the dibs on the food while the hens hover on the side waiting for their chance to sneak in a peck.

It’s the sheer accuracy and honesty of these details that draws us in. This singular image evokes recognition of the familiar, remembrance of simple memories. It does not romanticize a picturesque, clutter-free ideal but portrays a vivid scene of plain reality. Its candid ordinariness is exactly what makes it compelling.

There may be rare things that are worth owning and once in a lifetime events that are worth celebrating but it may also be worthwhile to value the quotidian. It may also be meaningful if we don’t just live for the monumental.

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