Smallness is subversive, because smallness can creep into smaller places and wreak transformation at the most vulnerable, cellular level. In a time when largeness is threatening to topple us, I wish to remember and praise the beauty of smallness, in order to banish the Goliath of loneliness.
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
No, what's troubling is the gap between the magnitude of our challenges and the smallness of our politics-the ease with which we are distracted by the petty and trivial, our chronic avoidance of tough decisions, our seeming inability to build a working concensus to tackle any big problem.
We paint from within outward - if we force our vision on the world it calls us great painters; if we don't it ignores us; but we are the same. We don't attach any meaning to greatness or smallness. What happens to our work afterward is unimportant; we have got all we could out of it while we were doing it.
W. Somerset Maugham
I became frustrated early on as a playwright by a kind of smug smallness in modern drama. There was a lack of what I now understand as courage in the work of others as well as in my own work, and I found I was mildly amused or interested by such plays but not deeply engaged or enlightened.
I believe that there is no test of greatness in periods, nations or men more sure than the development, among them or in them, of a noble grotesque, and no test of comparative smallness or limitation, of one kind or another, more sure than the absence of grotesque invention, or incapability of understanding it.
The significance of [the fine-structure constant] goes far beyond atomic physics, however. It is the smallness of 1/137 compared to unity that enables us to treat the coupling between the electromagnetic field and a charged particle such as an electron as a small perturbation, a fact of great computational importance. [Forces of Nature]
Paul C.W. Davies
It's a gift to joyfully recognize and accept our own smallness and ordinariness. Then you are free with nothing to live up to, nothing to prove, and nothing to protect. Such freedom is my best description of Christian maturity, because once you know that your "I" is great and one with God, you can ironically be quite content with a small and ordinary "I." No grandstanding is necessary. Any question of your own importance or dignity has already been resolved once and for all and forever.
I was inspired to become an actor from theater I'd seen, so I assumed I'd do a lot of theater. But when I left Guidhall, the first thing I did was a short film - I played the main character. And I loved it. I love working on camera. I love the smallness of it and the detail and the routine of it.
I am not a 'democrat' only because 'humility' and equality are spiritual principles corrupted by the attempt to mechanize and formalize them, with the result that we get not universal smallness and humility, but universal greatness and pride, till some Orc gets hold of a ring of power--and then we get and are getting slavery.
J. R. R. Tolkien
If we consider what science already has enabled men to know-the immensity of space, the fantastic philosophy of the stars, the infinite smallness of the composition of atoms, the macrocosm whereby we succeed only in creating outlines and translating a measure into numbers without our minds being able to form any concrete idea of it-we remain astounded by the enormous machinery of the universe.
He crosses the front room, which he calls his study, and comes down the staircase. The stairs turn a corner; they are narrow and steep. You can touch both handrails with your elbows, and you have to bend your head, even if, like George, you are only five eight. This is a tightly planned little house. He often feels protected by its smallness; there is hardly room enough here to feel lonely. Nevertheless.
I suppose the half-breeds in Manitoba, in 1870, did not fight for two hundred forty acres of land, but it is to be understood there were two societies who treated together. One was small, but in its smallness it had its rights. The other was great, but in its greatness it had no greater rights than the rights of the small, because the right is the same for everyone.
So many things in the world have happened before. But it's like they never did. Every new thing that happens to a person, it's a first... In that night I felt expansion, as if the world was branching out in shoots and growing faster than the eye could see. I felt smallness, how the earth divided into bits and kept dividing. I felt stars.
Maybe I am getting too grown to want to sleep with Mama. But like a baby, I still have this smallness to my mind. I don't need her hands to convince me the world I can't see from under my blanket is real. I need her hands to do more than her words. Convince me the world I see outside it- ain't.
Connie Rose Porter
I stared up in disbelief at the information my eyes fed my brain, and lost myself to the stars.For the first time in my life I had a greater idea of how infinitesimally small our planet really is and, furthermore, how tiny and insignificant I am in the grand scheme of the vast universe.I took a seat on a rock next to Lily and took in the moment to comprehend the vastness of everything else, and the incredible smallness of I.
I stared up in disbelief at the information my eyes fed my brain, and lost myself to the stars. For the first time in my life I had a greater idea of how infinitesimally small our planet really is and, furthermore, how tiny and insignificant I am in the grand scheme of the vast universe. I took a seat on a rock next to Lily and took in the moment to comprehend the vastness of everything else, and the incredible smallness of I.
Looking back, I wish that everyone could have that sort of moment: a moment where you realize that your hands are so impossibly small and this world is so impossibly big. And the two don't seem to add up. Maybe recognizing the smallness of your own hands is just the very first step to changing anything at all.
I believe that the unity of man as opposed to other living things derives from the fact that man is the conscious life of himself. Man is conscious of himself, of his future, which is death, of his smallness, of his impotence; he is aware of others as others; man is in nature, subject to its laws even if he transcends it with his thought.
Increase and widen your desires till nothing but reality can fulfill them. It is not desire that is wrong, but its narrowness and smallness. Desire is devotion. By all means be devoted to the real, the infinite, the eternal heart of being. Transform desire into love. All you want is to be happy. All your desires, whatever they may be are expressions of your longing for happiness.
Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj
How can it be a large career to tell other people's children about the Rule of Three, and a small career to tell one's own children about the universe? How can it be broad to be the same thing to everyone, and narrow to be everything to someone? No. A woman's function is laborious, but because it is gigantic, not because it is minute. I will pity Mrs. Jones for the hugeness of her task; I will never pity her for its smallness.
New Yorkers love the bigness - the skyscrapers, the freedom, the lights. But they also love it when they can carve out some smallness for themselves. When the guy at the corner store knows which newspaper you want. When the barista has your order ready before you open your mouth. When you start to recognize the people in your orbit, and you know that, say, if you're waiting for the subway at eight fifteen on the dot, odds are the redhead with the red umbrella is going to be there too.
Do not let yourselves be discouraged or embittered by the smallness of the success you are likely to achieve in trying to make life better. You certainly would not be able, in a single generation, to create an earthly paradise. Who could expect that? But, if you make life ever so little better, you will have done splendidly, and your lives will have been worthwhile. Property may be destroyed and money may lose its purchasing power; but, character, health, knowledge and good judgement will always be in demand under all conditions.
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.
Hate nobody; love everybody. It won't cost you anything. Love never costs anything. Love is the most selfish act. It gives you so much protection, grace, and radiance. It doesn't give you any smallness or suffering. The attitude of conscious living is to love and give grace to someone worthy of your trust. Do not seek anything from people. Give love instead, and rely on God.
Harbhajan Singh Yogi
Naked girls with the heads of Marx and Malraux prone and helpless in the glare of the headlights, tried to give them a little joie de vivre but maybe it didn't take, their constant bickering and smallness, it's like a stroke of lightning, the world reminds you of its power, tracheotomies right and left, I am spinning, my pretty child, don't scratch, pick up your feet, the long nights, spent most of my time listening, this is a test of the system, this is only a test.
I reveled in the smallness, the coziness of an upstairs bedroom in a traditional American Cape Cod house the half-floor that forces you to duck, to feel small and naive again, ready for anything, dying for love, your body a chimney filled with odd, black smoke. These square, squat, awkward rooms are like a fifty-square-foot paean to teenage-hood, to ripeness, to the first and last taste of youth.
The idea of self-effacement, the idea that you feel so powerless that the only tiny morsel of power you have is over your own ability to deny yourself food - that to me is a very profound and sad methodology and indicator of how powerless a lot of people feel in this world. That they will turn that onto themselves until they are physically smaller. I think it's affected my worldview a lot - just being sensitive and empathetic towards the ways people want to be small. I don't wish smallness for anyone.
She stood up and took the book from him, and as he smiled over his shoulder at some other kids, she threw it away and kicked him as hard as she could in the vicinity of the groin. Well, as you might imagine, Ludwig Schmeikl certainly buckled, and on the way down, he was punched in the ear. When he landed, he was set upon. When he was set upon, he was slapped and clawed and obliterated by a girl who was utterly consumed with rage. His skin was so warm and soft. Her knuckles and fingernails were so frighteningly tough, despite their smallness. You Saukerl." Her voice, too, was able to scratch him. "You Arschloch. Can you spell Arschloch for me?
As Attraction is stronger in small Magnets than in great ones in proportion to their Bulk, and Gravity is greater in the Surfaces of small Planets than in those of great ones in proportion to their bulk, and small Bodies are agitated much more by electric attraction than great ones; so the smallness of the Rays of Light may contribute very much to the power of the Agent by which they are refracted.
Immediately upon the fall, the mind of man shrank from its primitive greatness and expandedness, to an exceeding smallness and contractedness... Before, his soul was under the government of the noble principles of divine love, whereby it was enlarged to the comprehensiveness of all his fellow creatures and their welfare... [But] sin, like some powerful astringent, contracted his soul to the very small dimensions of selfishness, and God was forsaken, and man retired within himself, and became totally governed by narrow and selfish principles and feelings.
If the statistics are right, the Jews constitute but one percent of the human race. It suggests a nebulous dim puff of star dust lost in the blaze of the Milky Way. Properly the Jew ought hardly to be heard of, but he is heard of, has always been heard of. He is as prominent on the planet as any other people, and his commercial importance is extravagantly out of proportion to the smallness of his bulk. His contributions to the world's list of great names in literature, science, art, music, finance, medicine, and abstruse learning are also away out of proportion to the weakness of his numbers.
I think the stage is set for the appearance of new faiths, centred on the UFO belief. To a greater degree than all phenomena modern science is confronting, the UFO can inspire awe, the sense of the smallness of man, and an idea of the possibility of contact with the cosmic. The religions we have briefly surveyed began with the miraculous experiences of one person, but to-day there are thousands for whom the belief in otherworldly contact is based on intimate conviction, drawn from what they regard as personal contact with UFOs and their occupants.
Now suppose both death and hell were utterly defeated. Suppose the fight was fixed. Suppose God took you on a crystal ball trip into your future and you saw with indubitable certainty that despite everything "" your sin, your smallness, your stupidity "" you could have free for the asking your whole crazy heart's deepest desire: heaven, eternal joy. Would you not return fearless and singing? What can earth do to you, if you are guaranteed heaven? To fear the worst earthly loss would be like a millionaire fearing the loss of a penny "" less, a scratch on a penny.
I felt despair. The word's overused and banalified now, despair, but it's a serious word, and I'm using it seriously. For me it denotes a simple admixture "" a weird yearning for death combined with a crushing sense of my own smallness and futility that presents as a fear of death. It's maybe close to what people call dread or angst. But it's not these things, quite. It's more like wanting to die in order to escape the unbearable feeling of becoming aware that I'm small and weak and selfish and going without any doubt at all to die. It's wanting to jump overboard.
David Foster Wallace
I felt despair. The word's overused and banalified now, despair, but it's a serious word, and I'm using it seriously. For me it denotes a simple admixture - a weird yearning for death combined with a crushing sense of my own smallness and futility that presents as a fear of death. It's maybe close to what people call dread or angst. But it's not these things, quite. It's more like wanting to die in order to escape the unbearable feeling of becoming aware that I'm small and weak and selfish and going without any doubt at all to die. It's wanting to jump overboard.
David Foster Wallace
If greatness of purpose, smallness of means, and astonishing results are the three criteria of a human genius, who could dare compare any great man in history with Muhammad? The most famous men created arms, laws, and empires only. They founded, if anything at all, no more than material powers which often crumbled away before their eyes. This man moved not only armies, legislations, empires, peoples, dynasties, but millions of men in one-third of the then inhabited world; and more than that, he moved the altars, the gods, the religions, the ideas, the beliefs and the souls.
Alphonse de Lamartine
There came to him an image of man's whole life upon the earth. It seemed to him that all man's life was like a tiny spurt of flame that blazed out briefly in an illimitable and terrifying darkness, and that all man's grandeur, tragic dignity, his heroic glory, came from the brevity and smallness of this flame. He knew his life was little and would be extinguished, and that only darkness was immense and everlasting. And he knew that he would die with defiance on his lips, and that the shout of his denial would ring with the last pulsing of his heart into the maw of all-engulfing night.
So many things that are so dramatic or exciting when you read about them actually happen so simply and quietly. We humans like to consider ourselves important to creation and to the world, and we expect that whenever death comes it should be with a crash of thunder and wild shouts or something, or with soft music around and people looking grave and serious. We always have it that way in the theatre because it makes us believe in our importance. Most of our life is a matter of dressing ourselves up to believe in just that, dressing ourselves in attractive clothes, in titles, in reputations. Actually, at base we all realize that we're just a frightened bundle of animals, still afraid of the unknown, and still afraid of thousands of things that can separate us from life, and trying to shield ourselves from our own smallness.
Tony's concern disintegrated. He could not understand C.J.'s determination to court death on a daily basis. Or maybe he did understand, and this was what caused his frustration. So many found the same solution his brother had. Selling death to their own people. The money was a difficult lure to resist. Additionally, the fear elicited from their hard core posturing proved nearly as addictive. They demanded to be heard, even though it didn't seem they had much to say. Perhaps the futility and smallness that characterized their lives was too overwhelming to articulate in any manner other than a primitive, incoherent scream. Maybe it was inevitable that those who felt they had no stake in society would opt to destroy it.
Roy L. Pickering Jr.
Those who understand the cross increasingly see their sin as God does, and therefore begin to feelabout sin as does God. We begin to mourn for and hate it. In other words, at the cross God becomes larger and we become smaller. This separation is at the heart of the fear of God. This "fear" opens God's wisdom to us because only in light of God's immensity can I see the importance of living for the right end, his glory. And only in the light of my smallness can I feel overawed by the means he used to save me, his cross.
William F. Farley
As spiritual searchers we need to become freer and freer of the attachment to our own smallness in which we get occupied with me-me-me. Pondering on large ideas or standing in front of things which remind us of a vast scale can free us from acquisitiveness and competitiveness and from our likes and dislikes. If we sit with an increasing stillness of the body, and attune our mind to the sky or to the ocean or to the myriad stars at night, or any other indicators of vastness, the mind gradually stills and the heart is filled with quiet joy. Also recalling our own experiences in which we acted generously or with compassion for the simple delight of it without expectation of any gain can give us more confidence in the existence of a deeper goodness from which we may deviate. (39)
The life spills over, some days. She cannot be at rest, Wishes she could explode Like that red tree- The one that bursts into fire All this week. Senses her infinite smallness But can't seize it, Recognizes the folly of desire, The folly of withdrawal- Kicks at the curb, the pavement, If only she could, at this moment, When what she's doing is plodding To the bus stop, to go to school, Passing that fiery tree-if only she could Be making love, Be making a painting, Be exploding, be speeding through the universe Like a photon, like a shower Of yellow flames- She believes if she could only catch up With the riding rhythm of things, of her own electrons, Then she would be at rest- If she could forget school, Climb the tree, Be the tree, burn like that.
Alicia Suskin Ostriker
She had come to that state where the horror of the universe and its smallness are both visible at the same time-the twilight of the double vision in which so many elderly people are involved. If this world is not to our taste, well, at all events, there is Heaven, Hell, Annihilation-one or other of those large things, that huge scenic background of stars, fires, blue or black air. All heroic endeavour, and all that is known as art, assumes that there is such a background, just as all practical endeavour, when the world is to our taste, assumes that the world is all. But in the twilight of the double vision, a spiritual muddledom is set up for which no high-sounding words can be found; we can neither act nor refrain from action, we can neither ignore nor respect Infinity.
The tears in my pus-filled eyes became a thousand little crystals of ever color. Like stained-glass windows, I thought. God is with you today, Papi! In the midst of nature's monstrous elements, in the wind, the immenseness of the sea, the depth of the waves, the imposing green roof of the bush, you feel your own infinitesimal smallness, and perhaps it's here, without looking for Him, that you find God, that you touch Him with your finger. I had sensed Him at night during the thousands of hours I had spent buried alive in dank dungeons without a ray of sun; I touched Him today in a sun that would devour everything too weak to resist it. I touched God, I felt Him around me, inside me. He even whispered in my ear: "You will suffer; you will suffer more. But this time I am on your side. You will be free. You will, I promise you.
But that is the nature of true grace and spiritual light, that it opens to a person's view the infinite reason there is that he should be holy in a high degree. And the more grace he has, and the more this is opened to view, the greater sense he has of the infinite excellency and glory of the divine Being, and of the infinite dignity of the person of Christ, and the boundless length and breadth and depth and height of the love of Christ to sinners. And as grace increases, the field opens more and more to a distant view, until the soul is swallowed up with the vastness of the object, and the person is astonished to think how much it becomes him to love this God and this glorious Redeemer that has so loved man, and how little he does love. And so the more he apprehends, the more the smallness of his grace and love appears strange and wonderful: and therefore he is more ready to think that others are beyond him.
The masses live their lives as defined by terms given by society. For example: this is what it means to be married, this is what it means to be in a relationship, this is what it means to be dating, this is what it means to have a mutual understanding, sighs, this is what it means to be serious, this is what it means to be casual, this is what it means to be complicated, this is what it means to be Facebook official. These are all terms given by society. These are all invisible (and not so invisible) lines, drawn by society. These are are not God-lines. These are not borders created by highly enlightened individuals. These are not terms defined by you during moments of highly elevated consciousness. No. These are only shits. A pure soul, completely whole and void of constriction, will look out into the world with untainted eyes and say: "Where is the one whom my soul recognizes?" And you look for the one whom your soul is sired to, whom your soul recognizes, whom your soul loves. There are no laws, there are no lines, there are no borders. There is no shit. You are committed to the call of your soul, to the power that calls you beyond all the cloaks and the traps and the smallness created by small hands.
C. JoyBell C.
Please don't misunderstand me. I'm not saying motherhood lacks meaning. There's great dignity in the smallness of motherhood; we're essential in our contingency. And though we may not follow the Western model of the epic hero, we mothers can find a metaphor for our lives. The metaphor is in the kuroko, the Kabuki theater stage assistant. You've heard of Kabuki-with its wildly theatrical actors, its gorgeous costumes, and spectacular scale. The kuroko are assistants who help the actors move through their elaborate dramas. Meant to provide unobtrusive assistance with props and costumes, kuroko try to remain in the wings. They huddle in half-kneeling posture, wearing black bags over their heads and bodies-the better to recede into both actors' and audience's preconscious mind. Scurrying to arrange the trailing hems of heavy brocade kimonos, like an American mother repeatedly straightening her daughter's wedding train, the kuroko's role is to suport the real players of life's dramas.