The 9th International Conference Buddhism & Australia
Chinese Buddhist Encyclopedia Illustrations
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What is the Mundane World?
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By Matt Langdon
The Mundane World is boring.
Harry Potter is not thrilled to be living under the staircase on Privet Drive. Dorothy does not enjoy living on a Kansas farm. Luke Skywalker hates the drudgery of living on his desert planet. It’s not hard to feel sympathy for these poor soon-to-be-heroes.
However, it is important to realise that the boring-ness is 100% subjective. It’s easy to imagine plenty of children who’d jump at the chance of growing up on a farm. In fact, I know some adults who would love it. It’s just not right for Dorothy. What about life on an island where you fight dragons (successfully) on a regular basis? Hardly sounds boring, but Hiccup had zero interest in that life in “How To Train Your Dragon”. The Mundane World is not a place, it’s a state of mind.
My most recent Mundane World was working in an administrative role at a camp. I was doing work that I loved with people I loved. I had a great salary with a rent free house on 500 acres – with a lake. I could go horse riding, canoeing, or rock climbing whenever I wanted to. But that life was not motivating me any more and it wasn’t creating change in me. It had become mundane.
The entire time I was at camp, people regularly asked me how I could possibly have decided to move from Australia to Michigan. Australia is a world of dreams for many Americans. It was a place of nightmares to me. While staying in a vineyard in France on the coast of the Mediterranean a local girl asked me how I could think her home was so amazing when I’d grown up in Australia. I knew why she asked because I’d asked it myself eleven years before.
When I arrived in New York City for my orientation to American life through the camp program, I was part of a group of forty Australians. The twenty male Australians all fell in love with a Swiss girl named Petra on that first night. I managed to get up the courage to talk to her and was rewarded with an invitation to stay with her if I ever visited Switzerland. Fast forward two years and I was picked up at the train station by Petra and her boyfriend (curses!) and driven through the Alps. I’d never seen mountains before and here I was having lunch surrounded by them. I said, “You must walk around looking up all the time – it’s so beautiful.” I was answered with, “Oh, we don’t notice them.” Later that week I went out to a bar and sat with a dozen Swiss supermodels (or so they seemed to me). They had all fled the country at some point to find adventure and to escape the boredom. “Why would you want to go to Australia when you are living in the middle of Europe in the mountains?” Now I know. Your Mundane World is yours.
The fact is, if you make it known that you want a change, people are going to tell you how good you have it. They’re not you and they’re unlikely to be living in that same world. Even if they appear to be in the same world, they’re not experiencing it the way you are.
If you need to leave your Mundane World, look for a Call to Adventure and take off. Don’t look for support from those you’re leaving behind. Look for the change makers ahead of you.