The Power of Enjoying the Mundane
Lessons from Jury duty
Recently I was selected to be part of a jury. I was not surprised to see that most of the other people arriving at the courthouse for the selection process were moaning and groaning. When the time came for interviewing potential jurors, it was obvious that 90% of people were trying to get out of it.
I totally understand how something like jury duty can feel like an interruption, especially when so many of us lead such busy lives. Plus it has to do with the government, which most of us can't stand dealing with, between taxes and the DMV. When I told people I was serving, pretty much all of the responses were along the lines of, "Oh shit, I'm so sorry!", "That sucks!" "Ugh, what a pain." But, in actuality, is it really that painful?
I would actually say that jury duty was one of the best experiences I've had. For three days, I was part of a completely different environment. It was a total change of routine. I only had to think about the evidence and arguments that were being presented to me. It was literally my job to forget all of my biases, my preconceived notions on right and wrong. In order to follow the law, I would need to be completely present to what was happening.
My fellow jurors were the best part. They were all completely different than me, and I don't think we ever would have crossed paths if not for the trial. Our jury was comprised of a law student, an NY Department of Transportation engineer, an aspiring marine, a truck driver, an NYC state trooper, and a Watchtower (Jehovah's Witness) volunteer. We spent four days together listening, deliberating, and waiting around. They were all hilarious. We laughed together at the defense attorney's expense over his winding narratives and too-tight suits. It was easy to find commonalities even though we had totally different backgrounds and belief systems.
The one thing we had in common was we had all agreed to serve on the jury. If you've ever been called, you know how easy it is to get off. (For those of you who don't, all you have to say is, "I don't think I can be unbiased"; you don't even have to act crazy). All of the folks who were chosen for my jury were positive, patient, and present. They were willing to be there, and I think we all enjoyed the process. It was refreshing to be serving with other folks who were happy to be where they were, however inconvenient.
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Jury duty (and all of those other detested forms of interaction with the government), may grant us a bigger lesson in acceptance. "Accept what we cannot change". And not just accept, but find ways to enjoy. There is something enjoyable in every part of life. I find a lot of enjoyment in the people. If I am waiting in line, or stuck in traffic, I try my best to lift myself out of frustration and look around at the people who are waiting with me. There's always someone doing something interesting.
I think about how we fill up the gaps with screen time. If we're out on a lunch break, how many of us are scrolling as we are eating? How many of us are scrolling in the train, in the car, on our way to places? How many of us are scrolling at the gym? During dinner with the family? After dinner, before dinner? What are we scrolling towards? Does it feel meaningful? Does it feel fulfilling? Is it giving us something we didn't have before?
Or is it taking us away from the present, which can be so boring and mundane, but also so poignant and uplifting? What I'm saying is: we may be missing a lot. We do life an injustice by complaining about it. We do our fellow humans an injustice by gripping about the things we cannot change. We are trying to convince ourselves and everyone around us that everything sucks, when in fact, there is so much beauty and complexity all around us. Our phones may be brighter and more varied than our immediate environments, but we will never find satisfaction in the act of scrolling. Because it is not where we really are.
While deliberating as a jury, we were not allowed to have our phones. How many chances do we get to be without our personal computers (and what some people call their "best friends"?). I encourage you all to try it. Go one full day without a cell phone, look around, and see what you see. You might like it.