Unexpected Importance of Small Things

“If more of us valued food and cheer and song above hoarded gold, it would be a merrier world.”

Thorin from “The Hobbit” by J.R.R. Tolkien

What sort of things do you pay attention to? Are they the big, the loud, and the colourful? We all have filters that regulate what gets our attention and what doesn’t. It wouldn’t be possible without such filters, there are too many things for our minds to grasp all of them. But it is important to recognize one’s filters. They determine what we focus on, what we notice, what we disregard. And that, in turn, informs our values. So if I only pay attention to that which screams the loudest, it has a flip side that might not be immediately clear to me. That is – I will disregard the silent things.

Eventually, even if someone draws my attention to some such silent thing, I will dismiss it as irrelevant. The silent, small, inconspicuous things don’t play any sort of important role in anything that matters. They do not move the needle, so why focus on them, right? It is easy to understand why many of us think this way. Even if we do not consciously want to admit it, if we honestly observe our behaviour and thought pattern, we may notice, to our surprise, that we automatically tend to prioritize the big, loud things and downplay the relevance of the small, silent things.

If you live in a relatively big city, just look around. How do the media companies compete for your attention? What type of commercials do you notice first? Also, after watching the news, how likely are you to appreciate the simple comfort and warmth of your home and the calming effect of being able to take deep breaths while reading a good book or just observing the birds in a local park? While understandable, this underappreciation of the small and silent things is, I believe, to our own detriment.

First of all, all big and loud things used to be small and silent at first. So, developing a habit of considering also the small and the silent as worthy of your attention can help prevent bigger problems. Think about your health, for instance. Noticing tiny stress signals of your body and mind, and acting on them can spare time, energy, and money later on by preventing the development of bigger issues. In other words, you don’t have to wait until you feel like you are dying in order to start taking care of yourself. But this habit can be beneficial also in many other ways.

Think of a time when you’ve felt down, sad, unvalued, misunderstood, for whatever reason. What helped? Often enough, the best help comes from the smallest acts of kindness of those around us. Be it from our loved ones or strangers. A warm and true smile and just a few words of encouragement at the right time can pull us back from the self-loathing depth of despair we had fallen into. Or perhaps stumbling on a cute little birdhouse while strolling through the nearby forest and obsessing over your problems.

A small birdhouse someone crafted and placed there with care

You will not hear about these things on the news and will not see them on any of the billboards. They are too small and silent to be worthy of the attention-grabbing attitude. Yet, they can mean the world and be priceless to someone. Even if there are no grand effects to be noticed immediately.

“Little Piglet – held back by imaginings and fears, yearning to be Someone – is the last animal one might expect to accomplish anything of importance. And yet Piglet is the material from which heroes are made… In many ways, Piglet may appear the least significant of the Pooh characters. Yet he is the only one of them to change, to grow, to become more than what he was in the first place. And in the end, he does this not by denying his smallness, but by applying it, for the good of others. He accomplishes what he does without accumulating a Large Ego; inside, he remains a Very Small Animal – but a different kind of Very Small Animal from what he was before.”

Benjamin Hoff from his “The Te of Piglet” (The principles of Taoism demonstrated by Winnie-the-Pooh and Piglet)

keep exploring!

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