Small is beautiful and small seems to be the new big. Back in your day the microscope was beginning to unfold and while you probably weren’t aware of the advances in technology that were on your doorstep, the small world was beginning to reveal itself. (Now that technology is taking another advance.) Your little blue bottle’s contents contained a distillation of the essence of life and love and light – your gift to those seeking healing. The idea that something small makes a difference has been a childhood truth. My Dad used to sing the Disney classic “Just what makes that little old ant” – a tale of an ant conquering a rubber tree plant, instilling in me the mantra that little efforts with tenacity and determination can well make a lasting difference. I also have loved the parable of the 1,000th snowflake where the weight of one snowflake is nothing less than nothing and yet the 1,000th snowflake breaks the bough.
In my time, the small is taking a new place and shape. Instead of the big corporate donors, crowdfunding is taking hold as a way to bring ideas to life. While there are epic tales of rhyming poetry finding their way into print (see Valerie Volk’s Passion Play and Lisa Jacobsen‘s The SunlitZone) are filling spaces on twitter (see Katie Keys). Inspired by that phenomena I am giving myself a Lenten practice of tweeting a poem a day for the 40 days on my journey to Easter (#atinylittlepoem).
It is the small that makes a difference to the whole. There are so many examples of this in everyday situations, and recognition of that moment when the small is mutually recognised and affirmed. On the bus last night, I was offered a seat, another passenger offered to help press the button as I was too far away and yet another offered me a warm and generous smile: a trinity of simplicity to send me on way out of the bustling Friday afternoon.
Bigger is not necessarily better and when I was introduced to Schumacher’s Small is Beautiful in the early ‘80’s I was inspired particularly by the idea that it was all about ‘economics as if people mattered’. I fully except to see a revival in his work as technology and the environmental movement takes the next step in its evolution.
The village is the small and it is probably one of the reasons I like living in my village of Willunga and in particular love our Farmer’s Market. I am a little worried that that the recent extension granted to grow the size of the market, might be a death knell. It is easy to get seduced by growth. This seduction to the big is better principle needs to be kept at bay in my everyday life too – everyday sustainable practices extend to what I put in my mouth as food, in my head as thoughts, are subject to the same disciplines and truths.
My tiny little poem discipline for Lent will serve me as a daily reminder that small is beautiful, that sustainability is a series of small steps (and not a great big leap) and most importantly creating space for the small is an invitation to distil rather than dilute.