On Small Stuff

There are those who tell us, “Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff, and it’s ALL Small Stuff.”

This counsel seems aimed at “the worriers” among us, advising that there are things simply out of our control; chips which we must let fall where they may, instead of trying to juggle and stack them.

It is the same rationale behind “Let go, Let God.” The concept is appealing, sometimes. “Just go with the flow, man!”  “Don’ worry. ‘Bout a ting. Cuz, Every little ting, is gonna be alright.”

Compare that first bromide, then, to another favorite: “I am the Great and Powerful Oz! Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain!”

This one is told to us by a thief caught in the act. “Look away! You’ve discovered some “small stuff” in the workings of the world. It’s above your pay grade. Unimportant. Move along.”

Both aphorisms (“Don’t sweat the small stuff” and “Ignore the wizard”) are telling us to ignore what we have observed and determined to be important.

The perceiver is blamed or shamed for being perceptive.

“Oh what a tangled web we cleave, when first we practice to perceive.”

In the case of Oz, the manipulator attempts to preserve his profitable deceptions by telling the person(s) uncovering them to pay no mind.  “Exposing” destroys the capacity to profit from deception others could not see, “before you meddling kids came along!”

“Like, ZOIKS, Scoob! People trading on secrets often try to call them “Trade Secrets.”

The rhetorical tack to tell others to ignore what they see, to ignore actual motivations, is on full display in Monty Python’s “Holy Grail.” “Let’s not argue and bicker over who killed who! This is supposed to be a Happy Occasion!” says the Swamp King, ostensibly concerned with his guests’ good time at a wedding party, rather than on the Huge Tracts of Land he can only acquire if the wedding goes forward.

Shining a light disinfects. “This little light o’mine… I’m gonna let it shine…”

“Don’t sweat the small stuff” is the voice of the patronizing man who assures a woman that the things she has identified as important, are, “Well, actually…” a silly little bother. “Why worry your pretty little heads over such meaningless trifles, ladies?”  Says the man who benefits from the ladies not paying attention to his egregious thefts.

It is the consistent logic pushed by any group with an agenda. “C’mon! It’s only a small thing. Why are you making a big deal about it?”  Then you wake up one morning to find that “E Pluribus Unum” has been replaced by “In God We Trust,” chiseled into our governmental buildings, and corporations are “persons” with religious exercise rights. 

“C’mon, it ‘s a small thing.  We only changed the Pledge. The money. The national motto. No big deal. Relax. You’re making a mountain out of a mole hill.”

Yet if you dare say, “You’re correct, it is only a tiny little thing, and since it is so small and meaningless, let’s put it back the way it was,” you will face the most persistent, aggressive resistance imaginable, up to and including violence. “And we pray ye shall smite them… in thy Mercy.” (There is no end to a good “Holy Grail” reference!)

The other side is most definitely sweating the small stuff, in the same breath they advise you not to.  And therein lies the lie: Every one of us is out here sweating our small stuff, attempting to make the world a little more like what we think it should be.

The difference may be that the “other” side (the side projecting the advice “don’t sweat the small stuff,” as they most assuredly sweat theirs) is attempting to keep the peace, or rather – attempting to preserve a privileged status quo.  They KNOW that sweating another group’s small stuff leads to loss of privilege, or to wars.

They know all along that, in the end, they will abandon their advice and kill for their small stuff, if need be. Because it never was “advice.” It was a threat, an attempt to control and thereby maintain power and privilege.

== == = == == = == == = =====

Let us revise and reconsider the advice then, in light of these things.

Sweat the small stuff, precisely because it is ALL small stuff, and your “small stuff” is no less important to fight for than theirs.

Sweat YOUR stuff – let history and the universe decide if it was small, not the Wizard. Especially not The Grand Wizard.

Go, make your “big deals.” Care exactly about what your heart and mind demands you care about.  Prepare for the battle, because it WILL be a battle. Train, that your parries and thrusts may not be summarily deflected. Even Luke Skywalker had to find that open exhaust port on the Death Star. (“Leave a mark, Hamill!”)

But don’t stop caring, believing that what you perceive is important IS actually important.

Have some grit… some “sand” as an anachronistic Western cowboy might say. 

Throw yourself into the gears. Wreak what havoc you may, aware always that you will pay a steep price — but a price far less costly than the massive debt of cowardice, and regret.

Dive headlong into the gale-force oppositions you will no doubt face. Flying sand, driven in wind, shaped Arches National Park. Persistent, abrasive, obsessive rock cut the deep, glacial potholes in the Dalles of the St. Croix river. (Collaborate with water when you can!)

Pumice polishes the Stradivarius.

Let the universe become what whatever it becomes as a result of you being precisely what you are. Even if that means your “sand” is never the pearl, but only the irritating grain that incites it.  Your sand may be ground to dust, never lucky enough to end up in a necklace, instead melted into glass — to become a lens — shaped and polished by other abrasives just like you, that someday, someone may see deeper and deeper into the stars, and wonder.

And wonder — About the small stuff.


Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s