a defense of smallness

There’s something that’s been bothering me for a long time. Maybe most of my life, actually. But certainly actively bugging me since 2014. Back then, I thought the problem was arrogance. It was a good first answer – arrogance is certainly rife enough throughout human history, and doesn’t seem to be going anywhere. The arrogance of people to insist that they know their god is the only god, that other gods are all silly and evil. That their god had made humans in his image (the male ones, anyhow), and that they have a right to slaughter in their god’s name. Or the arrogance of the ‘scientists’ who reject creationism, yet still believe that humans are the only creature in all of evolution whose talents, perceptions, and feeling have any value at all. Who somehow thing that we are the highest possible watermark for all of evolution, as though a process as old as time would just stop on a dime with our still-half-lizard brains.

There’s the arrogance of people who talk at you rather than with you, who know that they know more about any given subject than you, even if they’ve never lived it or studied it. The arrogance of believing that their particular combination of race/ gender/ nationality/ sexuality/ religion/ politics/ profession is stellar, and all other variations are fundamentally worse, wrong, less-than-human, nasty, or even evil. I’m sure you can all think of some examples.

The opposite of arrogance, of course, is humility. A virtue espoused in many spiritual movements throughout history, and a pretty good one to keep in one’s quiver, if you ask me. But one that seems desperately lacking these days; particularly in my American homeland. Christ on a bike, is it ever in short supply there.

But I’ve realized that arrogance doesn’t fully explain the problem that’s been bugging me. There’s something else behind the arrogance, something deeper; like a river that gives rise to a city, gets paved over, but still goes gurgling along under it all the same. And that problem is bigness.

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