In Praise of Small Things
I’ve been at this Radical Gratitude challenge for seven days now. The idea is to write every day about something in regular, day-to-day experience that strikes me as miraculous, or at least pretty cool — something I might miss if I weren’t paying attention.
So far, the experiment has gone well. I am humbled and delighted that two superlative Medium writers have joined me in the project: Helen Cassidy Page and Michelle Monet have both written eloquently of the surprising effects of simple gratitude, here in this month of Thanksgiving (for Americans, anyway, who are slower to the starting line than Canadians).
Going through my day with an eye out for the wondrous has a subtle but undeniable effect on my outlook. I notice my curiosity sharpening as I take in my surroundings. I’m primed, it seems, to register the good.
It doesn’t mean life has suddenly become all zippidee-doo-dah and bluebird-on-my-shoulder good times. Sometimes it behaves as though it’s taking a perverse glee in testing me. This morning started with my dog yakking on the carpet just as I was heading out of the door, and when I finally did get to the middle school where I work, we’d barely gotten through the Pledge of Allegiance before a fistfight broke out between two sixth grade boys.
Such hiccups are wee things, when I have a moment to scan the news and am reminded that the world — the human world, anyway — seems intent on going completely to hell. So I take a breath and a moment to send up some gratitude that the problems I’m confronting are small.
Which is when it occurs to me that many of the things that bring me joy, the things I’ve become more attuned because I’ve been paying attention, are small things: that first, perfect sip of coffee laced with cream; my dog resting her head on my knee as I do my morning meditation; the mist rising off the vineyards as I drive to work.
And that gets me to thinking about a Medium story I am wildly grateful to have stumbled upon: Ben Holmes’s witty, lyrical and slyly deep article about panpsychism. Bear with me a second: it’s a fun read, and if you’re at all inclined toward philosophy or even a passing interest in How It All Happens, it’s exciting.
Basically — really, extremely dumbed down because this is me explaining with my paltry but eager brain a concept that has been percolating among great thinkers since before Plato — panpsychism is the view that matter arises out of consciousness instead of the other way round. And what Ben Holmes says, with a lot of credible back-ups, is that the carriers of consciousness just might be . . . electrons.
Talk about small things! If this idea appeals (or offends) you at all, I urge you to go read his article and then do further research. Personally, I found myself feeling kind of giddy, kind of in love with the idea that there’s an explanation for what I’ve always felt but not been able to articulate: that consciousness runs through everything, forms everything, unites everything.
Back to my crazy morning. After I’d cleaned up the dog puke, after I’d dealt with the pugilistic boys, I stood outside to monitor the students passing between classes. It had been a foggy morning, and now the fog was burning off. I was still thinking about Ben’s article and about how the tiny informs the great, back and forth infinitely, and something happened.
The sun came out, but the air was still laced with mist, which flowed in minuscule, illuminated particles, like miniaturized rain with the sun beaming through it. So I stood there, making sure kids got to class on time and blowing my whistle at the ones who were tossing a ball onto the gym roof, and all the time marveling at the synchronicity between my thoughts and the whirling, glinting droplets dancing before my eyes.
And that’s kind of miraculous, don’t you think? I’m pretty grateful to have lived it.
Check out my other posts this month as I explore radical gratitude, in a challenge to find the miraculous hidden in the everyday. If you feel inspired to join me, by all means, write on!