Among the maxims on Lord Naoshige’s wall there was this one: ”Matters of’ great concern should be treated lightly.” Master lttei commented, “Matters of small concern should be treated seriously.”
The Hagakure tells us to invert one of our natural ways of thinking of things. In expansion what it means is that you should only have two or three great concerns in your life, and those things should have already considered during quiet times, so that when a great decision comes upon you you already know how to act and will do so instantly, without concern.
Expansion kinda makes it boring.
In itself though, I love those maxims. Don’t worry about the big things, let them be little. Worry about the little things, because they can be solved easily enough. It’s a good philosophy.
If war shrank to tiny little scraps in the playground, they could doubtless be settled pretty quickly.
But playground bullying might need the UN intervention instead (not much of a change, really).
If the world shrank, and everyone on it got bigger, then there’d probably be some pretty major problems.
Not to mention the atoms becoming huge and the things they are made up of becoming tiny.
I imagine a weird popping sound at that point.
Okay, so maybe practical things don’t make much sense. If you get down to the nitty gritty (which would be immense) you’ll find that the change of proportion in things would get to baffling.
But then, I’d quite like to see a goldfish eat a whale too.
So back to philosophy, where I can pretend to be a bit more deep (even if it’s all a little shallow, oooh, factual inversion of volume!)
The really big things in the world are the economy, the countries, the multinational companies and the great big international acronyms (ASEAN, NATO, WTO, UN, ETC, ETC). The small things are those little favours you do for your friends, smiles at strangers walking down the street, and reaching down and picking up a bit of litter or planting a little seed.
The interesting thing here, is that not only would lots of people agree that the latter is more important than the former. It’s that the big things there, all need to stay big (and growing) or they lose their being. The small things though, are born to thrive. A seed grows to a tree, a clean street invites people to be bothered to tidy, a smile is infectious, and friendships multiply exponentially, with a little work.
I’m quite obviously picking my examples here. But on those terms, I think we all want to take more time to make the small things that can grow into big things.
Make a lot of little small things happen, and watch them grow into the huge things.
Here’s hoping, and, with respect to Nelson Henderson:
The true meaning of life is to plant trees, under whose shade you do not expect to sit.
Illustration by Adam.