Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Little things

I have a love-hate relationship with the little things. It's those that make or break my day. Perhaps because all the big things in my life are anyway going fine so there's not much unhappiness or excitement to be gotten there? In any case, it's the-elephant-and-the-mouse syndrome: the big things in my life are afraid of the little things. Someone being rude in the supermarket, a big full moon, an acquaintance not returning an sms, a pleasant comment from someone I just met, someone calling when I'm in the middle of something (and I'm always in the middle of some other little thing). Could be a variation of the classic case of people overestimating small probabilities and underestimating big ones. Or rather, the disproportionate focus on the little things could be the more general case of the probability-bias. I wonder why we (conveniently generalising my little personal experience to the entire human race) are like that. Of course the evolution-theory can offer some tautological explanation: because the big things are the regularities, the givens, and the small things are the anomalies, the things that you have to watch out for. The little things are the potential opportunities and the potential dangers. But they also chip away at our perspective, and leave us like myopic little ships floating around at the mercy of every single drop of rain.

Our life is frittered away by detail. Simplify, simplify.
Henry David Thoreau (1817 - 1862)

1 comment:

Hannah said...

So many big things that can only ever be experienced in little bits and pieces. Friendship. I could say 'this is such an amazing friend', but if someone would ask how, and why, I'd think hard and talk about wearing the same pyjamas, or this one time when I was sad and the other person brought me a drink. Inexplicable inside jokes are the perfect example of small mini things being the only feasible expression of something big and intangible like being friends.

And writing. The plot of most tales can be told in one or two phrases, but then it's the dirty details that stir the story, its the poetry of the phrase or the juxtaposition of ironies. If you ask me why I love books by Jonathan Safran Foer, I might say something idiotic like 'because his main character becomes friends with this eccentric person and oh, his books have pictures'. You'd have no idea.