You differ from a great man in only one respect: the great man was once a very little man, but he developed one important quality: he recognized the smallness and narrowness of his thoughts and actions. Under the pressure of some task that meant a great deal to him, he learned to see how his smallness, his pettiness endangered his happiness. In other words, a great man knows when and in what way he is a little man. A little man does not know he is little and is afraid to know. He hides his pettiness and narrowness behind illusions of strength and greatness, someone else's strength and greatness. He's proud of his great generals but not of himself. He admires an idea he has not had, not one he has had. The less he understands something, the more firmly he believes in it. And the better he understands an idea, the less he believes in it.
I have often thought how strange it is that men can at once and the same moment cheerfully consign our sex to lives either of narrowest toil or senseless luxury and vanity, and then sneer at the smallness of our aims, the pettiness of our thoughts, the puerility of our conversation!
Frances Power Cobbe
Oh, no said her mother sadly. You know nothing of the pettiness of women. When brothers agree to split a joint family they sometimes divide lakhs of rupees worth of property in a few minutes. But the tussle of their wives over the pots and pans in the common kitchen-that nearly causes bloodshed.
We need a government, not politics. Because there's too much politics. Of course there should be debate. But there seems to be so much pettiness and not enough good faith. It is civilized to agree to disagree, and this idea is slowly disintegrating. The great statesmen of the past knew this, and I think it helps drive civilization.
We must be vigilant that we don't sink into the morass of sectarianism, mixing, pettiness etc. We must not get involved in unprincipled slagging matches etc or into positions that are sectarian, anti-revolutionary, morally damaging that give succour to the enemy & that confuse & divide the working class
Thomas S. Power
In the end, it's only a story of having had her words and secrets, her confidences, turned against her by someone she once believed entirely beyond any acts of betrayal. A story of pettiness and cruelty and of the lies friends will tell when a friendship has ceased to be profitable or convenient. It is a very simple and inexpressibly complex story of cowardice...
Caitlen R. Kiernan
To lead a life that goes beyond pettiness and prejudice and always wanting to make sure that everything turns out on our own terms, to lead a more passionate, full, and delightful life than that, we must realize we can endure a lot of pain and pleasure for the sake of finding out who we are and what this world is." (The Wisdom of No Escape, p. 3)
Men who pride themselves on being shrewd in discovering the weak points, the vanity, the dishonesty, immorality, intrigue, and pettiness of others think they understand character. They know only a part of character. They know only the depths to which some men may sink; they know not the heights to which some men may rise.
William George Jordan
People love their causes they champion; they love their divisions and neatly packaged boxes of identity; for without them, they would be forced to look within, find themselves, set aside pettiness and face reality (that's quite frightening to most). As a result, they are like a lost ship at sea, forced to submit to the waves of society.
It is only when we are very happy that we can bear to gaze merrily upon the vast and limitless expanse of water, rolling on and on with such persistent, irritating monotony, to the accompaniment of our thoughts, whether grave or gay. When they are gay, the waves echo their gaiety; but when they are sad, then every breaker, as it rolls, seems to bring additional sadness, and to speak to us of hopelessness and of the pettiness of all our joys.
To lead a life that goes beyond pettiness and prejudice and always wanting to make sure that everything turns out on our terms, to lead a more passionate, full, and delightful life than that, we must realize that we can endure a lot of pain and pleasure for the sake of finding out who we are and what this world is, how we tick and how our world ticks, how the whole thing just is.
But the writer who endures and keeps working will finally know that writing the book was something hard and glorious, for at the desk a writer must try to be free of prejudice, meanness of spirit, pettiness, and hatred; strive to be a better human being than the writer normally is, and to do this through concentration on a single word, and then another, and another. This is splendid work, as worthy and demanding as any, and the will and resilience to do it are good for the writer's soul.
I think I was a little disappointed in her. I expected then people to be more of a piece than I do now, and I was distressed to find so much vindictiveness in so charming a creature. I did not realize how motley are the qualities that go to make up a human being. Now I am well aware that pettiness and grandeur, malice and charity, hatred and love, can find place side by side in the same human heart.
W. Somerset Maugham
I have decided to keep a record of my inmost real-self thoughts. Perhaps it will help me to find out what I really am like: horrid, I know: selfish, conceited, and material-minded. For instance, lately whenever I've tried to concentrate on anything serious or beautiful, I've started thinking about the Spencers' dance next week. I am ashamed of my pettiness. I'm going to try to do better this year--develop my character more and not always be thinking about enjoying myself. I've always been so happy, I dread disappointment and unhappiness, but they would be good for me. But I don't want them.
In this world where too many are willing to see only the light that is visible, never the Light Invisible, we have a daily darkness that is night, and we encounter another darkness from time to time that is death, the deaths of those we love, but the third and most constant darkness is with us everyday, at all hours of every day, is the darkness of the mind, the pettiness and meanness and hatred, which we have invited into ourselves, and which we pay out with generous interest.
You are different from the really great man in only one thing: The great man, at one time, also was a very little man, but he developed one important ability: he learned to see where he was small in his thinking, and actions. Under the pressure of some task which was dear to him he learned better and better to sense the threat that comes from his smallness and pettiness. The great man, then, knows when and in what he is a little man.
You work here [on the farm] simply without philosophizing; sometimes the work is hard and crowded with pettiness. But at times you feel a surge of cosmic exaltation, like the clear light of the heavens... . And you, too, seem to be taking root in the soil which you are digging, to be nourished by the rays of the sun, to share life with the tiniest blade of grass, with each flower; living in nature's depths, you seem then to rise and grow into the vast expanse of the universe.
A. D. Gordon
We all have demons inside us, Nick. The Tsalagi have an old saying""every heart holds two wolves. One is the white wolf, who is made up of love, kindness, respect, decency, compassion, and all the things that are good in life. The black wolf is born of jealousy, hatred, pettiness, prejudice, vindictiveness, and all the poisons of the human personality. The two constantly war with each other for dominance. And one day, one wolf will overtake and devour the other." - Acheron
What is the good of your stars and trees, your sunrise and the wind, if they do not enter into our daily lives? They have never entered into mine, but into yours, we thought--Haven't we all to struggle against life's daily greyness, against pettiness, against mechanical cheerfulness, against suspicion? I struggle by remembering my friends; others I have known by remembering some place--some beloved place or tree--we thought you one of these.
E. M. Forster
In all Thenardier's outpourings, the words and gestures, the fury blazing in his eyes, this explosion of an evil nature brazenly exposed, the mixture of bravado and abjectness, arrogance, pettiness, rage, absurdity; the hodgepodge of genuine distress, and lying sentiment, the shamelessness of a vicious man rejoicing in viciousness, the bare crudity of an ugly soul - in this eruption of all suffering and hatred there was something which was hideous as evil itself and still as poignant as truth.
The sound of distant breakers made her heart ache with melancholy. She was in the mood when the sea has a saddening effect upon the nerves. It is only when we are very happy that we can bear to gaze merrily upon the vast and limitless expanse of water, rolling on and on with such persistent, irritating monotony to the accompaniment of our thoughts, whether grave or gay. When they are gay, the waves echo their gaiety; but when they are sad, then every breaker, as it rolls, seems to bring additional sadness and to speak to us of hopelessness and of the pettiness of all our joys.
Princes always are always happy to see developing among their subjects the taste for agreeable arts and for superfluities which do not result in the export of money. For quite apart from the fact that with these they nourish that spiritual pettiness so appropriate for servitude, they know very well that all the needs which people give themselves are so many chains binding them. When Alexander wished to keep the Ichthyophagi dependent on him, he forced them to abandon fishing and to nourish themselves on foods common to other people. And no one has been able to subjugate the savages in America, who go around quite naked and live only from what their hunting provides. In fact, what yoke could be imposed on men who have no need of anything?
I think you are a liar because you think you know what is true. You think you feel what is true. But you do not yet know what you do feel and what you do know. Your desire and do not take; you love and are too afraid to feel your love; you conceal your vanity and pettiness from yourself; you are afraid to look into your soul and see what you are. That iis why i think you are a liar.
But it was not only a feeling of guilt which drove him into danger. He detested the pettiness that made life semilife and men semimen. He wished to put his life on one of a pair of scales and death on the other. He wished each of his acts, indeed each day, each hour, each second of his life to be measured against the supreme criterion, which is death. That was why he wanted to march at the head of the column, to walk on a tightrope over an abyss, to have a halo of bullets around his head and thus to grow in everyone's eyes and become unlimited as death is unlimited...
Facing up to non-being enables us to put our life into perspective, see it in its entirety, and thereby lend it a sense of direction and unity. If the ultimate source of anxiety is fear of the future, the future ends in death; and if the ultimate source of anxiety is uncertainty, death is the only certainty. It is only by facing up to death, accepting its inevitability, and integrating it into life that we can escape from the pettiness and paralysis of anxiety, and, in so doing, free ourselves to make the most out of our lives and out of ourselves.
For, thought Ahab, while even the highest earthly felicities ever have a certain unsignifying pettiness lurking in them, but, at bottom, all heartwoes, a mystic significance, and, in some men, an archangelic grandeur; so do their diligent tracings-out not belie the obvious deduction. To trail the genealogies of these high mortal miseries, carries us at last among the sourceless primogenitures of the gods; so that, in the face of all the glad, hay-making suns, and soft-cymballing, round harvest-moons, we must needs give in to this: that the gods themselves are not for ever glad. The ineffaceable, sad birthmark in the brow of man, is but the stamp of sorrow in the signers.
It belongs to small-mindedness to be unable to bear either honor or dishonor, either good fortune or bad, but to be filled with conceit when honored and puffed up by trifling good fortune, and to be unable to bear even the smallest dishonor and to deem any chance failure a great misfortune, and to be distressed and annonyed at everything. Moreover the small-minded man is the sort of person to call all slights an insult and dishonor, even those that are due to ignorance or forgetfulness. Small-mindedness is accompanied by pettiness, querulousness, pessimism and self-abasement.
Some writers might tell you that writing is like a piece of magic - a process of creating something out of nothing, and I guess I used to think about it that way too a long long time ago. But as I've lived my life and loved and lost friends and family, and seen dreams smashed and resurrected, and marveled at the pettiness, drear ambition and ignorance of the herd of which I am a part, I can no longer say that a poem or a story or a script comes from nothing. If it's any good, if it has any power, any potent emotional body, then it's something that a writer has paid for, not only in time, but in all the anxiety that accompanies living and those small fret-filled acts of becoming present that make it possible for us to see beyond our little patch of immediacy. It's not just a reaching out, but a reaching in, into the depths of our being from whence we've sprung.
Billy Marshall Stoneking
So long as you believe yourself to be 'only human' you have accepted life in a prison cell whose door remains locked only by your own mind. By saying, 'well, I'm only human', you have blindly submitted to all the limitations, fears, pettiness, greed and hatreds which make the common person weak and fragile. Most never become aware that another way is possible. You are human, but much more, too. The much-moreness is the vast, brilliant freedom and power which has confined itself in your humanity. If you are willing (and not everyone is, which is also a perfectly valid choice), you can begin to explore your native powers and experience freedom within limitation. When you do this, you live fully while you are here and you are no longer afraid to die. When you are not afraid of death but seek to live in a state of always-discovering, this is when life is transformed and you accept your birthright to choose and create in extraordinary fashion.
He fashioned an empire of sorts, bereft of cities yet plagued with the endless dramas of society, its pathetic victories and inevitable failures. The community of enslaved Imass thrived in this quagmire of pettiness. They even managed to convince themselves that they possessed freedom, a will of their own that could shape destiny. They elected champions. They tore down their champions once failure draped its shroud over them. They ran in endless circles and called it growth, emergence, knowledge. While over them all, a presence invisible to their eyes, Raest flexed his will. His greatest joy came when his slaves proclaimed him god - though they knew him not - and constructed temples to serve him and organized priesthoods whose activities mimicked Raest's tyranny with such cosmic irony that the Jaghut could only shake his head.
This is stupid." "Look. You think how stupid people are most of the time. Old men drink. Women at a village fair. Boys throwing stones at birds. Life. The foolishness and the vanity, the selfishness and the waste. The pettiness, the silliness. You think in war it must be different. Must be better. With death around the corner, men united against hardship, the cunning of the enemy, people must think harder, faster, be... better. Be heroic. Only it's just the same. In fact do you know, because of all that pressure, and worry, and fear, it's worse. There aren't many men who think clearest when the stakes are highest. So people are even stupider in war than the rest of the time. Thinking about how they'll dodge the blame, or grab the glory, or save their skins, rather than about what will actually work. There's no job that forgives stupidity more than soldiering. No job that encourages it more.
In everything that can be called art there is a quality of redemption. It may be pure tragedy, if it is high tragedy, and it may be pity and irony, and it may be the raucous laughter of the strong man. But down these mean streets a man must go who is not himself mean, who is neither tarnished nor afraid. The detective in this kind of story must be such a man. He is the hero; he is everything. He must be a complete man and a common man and yet an unusual man. He must be, to use a rather weathered phrase, a man of honor - by instinct, by inevitability, without thought of it, and certainly without saying it. He must be the best man in his world and a good enough man for any world. I do not care much about his private life; he is neither a eunuch nor a satyr; I think he might seduce a duchess and I am quite sure he would not spoil a virgin; if he is a man of honor in one thing, he is that in all things. He is a relatively poor man, or he would not be a detective at all. He is a common man or he could not go among common people. He has a sense of character, or he would not know his job. He will take no man's money dishonestly and no man's insolence without due and dispassionate revenge. He is a lonely man and his pride is that you will treat him as a proud man or be very sorry you ever saw him. He talks as the man of his age talks - that is, with rude wit, a lively sense of the grotesque, a disgust for sham, and a contempt for pettiness. The story is the man's adventure in search of a hidden truth, and it would be no adventure if it did not happen to a man fit for adventure. He has a range of awareness that startles you, but it belongs to him by right, because it belongs to the world he lives in. If there were enough like him, the world would be a very safe place to live in, without becoming too dull to be worth living in.
Pettiness often leads both to error and to the digging of a trap for oneself. Wondering (which I am sure he didn't) 'if by the 1990s [Hitchens] was morphing into someone I didn't quite recognize', Blumenthal recalls with horror the night that I 'gave' a farewell party for Martin Walker of the Guardian, and then didn't attend it because I wanted to be on television instead. This is easy: Martin had asked to use the fine lobby of my building for a farewell bash, and I'd set it up. People have quite often asked me to do that. My wife did the honors after Nightline told me that I'd have to come to New York if I wanted to abuse Mother Teresa and Princess Diana on the same show. Of all the people I know, Martin Walker and Sidney Blumenthal would have been the top two in recognizing that journalism and argument come first, and that there can be no hard feelings about it. How do I know this? Well, I have known Martin since Oxford. (He produced a book on Clinton, published in America as 'The President We Deserve'. He reprinted it in London, under the title, 'The President They Deserve'. I doffed my hat to that.) While Sidney-I can barely believe I am telling you this-once also solicited an invitation to hold his book party at my home. A few days later he called me back, to tell me that Martin Peretz, owner of the New Republic, had insisted on giving the party instead. I said, fine, no bones broken; no caterers ordered as yet. 'I don't think you quite get it, ' he went on, after an honorable pause. 'That means you can't come to the party at all.' I knew that about my old foe Peretz: I didn't then know I knew it about Blumenthal. I also thought that it was just within the limit of the rules. I ask you to believe that I had buried this memory until this book came out, but also to believe that I won't be slandered and won't refrain-if motives or conduct are in question-from speculating about them in my turn.
To return to my point about the immense power that his enemies attribute to him, Orwell once wrote about the 'large, vague renown' that constituted the popular memory of Thomas Carlyle. His own reputation has long been of that kind, if not rather greater and more precise. But this is not the same as moving millions to despair and apathy (Deutscher), or spoiling the morale of a whole generation (Williams), or authoring a work of fiction that was in fact, in rather cunning disguise, the work of an entire 'culture' (Thompson). In some semi-articulated way, many major figures of the Left have thought of Orwell as an enemy, and an important and frightening one. This was true to a somewhat lesser extent in his own lifetime. And, again, the dislike or distrust can be illustrated by a simple-or at any rate a simple-minded-confusion of categories. It was widely said, and believed, of Orwell that he had written the damning sentence: 'The working classes smell.' This statement of combined snobbery and heresy was supposedly to be found in The Road to Wigan Pier; in other words-since the book was a main selection of Victor Gollancz's Left Book Club-it could be checked and consulted. But it obviously never was checked or consulted, because in those pages Orwell only says that middle-class people, such as his own immediate forebears, were convinced that the working classes smelled. Victor Gollancz himself, though hopelessly at odds with Orwell in matters of politics, issued a denial on his behalf that he had ever said, or written, that 'the working classes smell.' It made no difference. As his published correspondence shows, every time Orwell wrote anything objectionable to the Left, up would come this old charge again, having attained the mythic status that placed it beyond mere factual refutation. It feels silly even to go over this pettiness again, but the identical method-of attributing to him the outlook that he attributed to others-is employed in our own time in critical discussions of 'Inside the Whale.