Day 75 – the virtue of the small

There’s been a rather lengthy conversation come after my Walking With Ghosts story, which mostly didn’t really have anything to do with me, so I’ve just watched it unfold. Towards the end somebody mentioned the book the Te of Piglet. I too read it ages ago, I too like the Tao of Pooh much better. But I also really liked the premise of the title: Te – the virtue, of Piglet – a wee and fragile timid little thing. The virtue of the small.

It’s something I think about a lot these days, for a variety of reasons. But the idea there’s something precious and wonderous about that part of us that is the weakest, the most frail… something so extrodinarily human about that. And so contrary to our desire to be strong, to be in control.

Right beside that dzogchen tantra I keep referring to this week, is a printout of Gustave’s Jacob Wrestling with the Angel. something about the bible story caught me once, about a God being willing to wrestle with you all night when he could take you down at any moment. Gustave’s image really captures it. You can see from the posture of the combatants the angel has the upper hand. It’s the spiritual equivalent of a bully holding on to a weakling’s head while he flails hopelessly. Except, I realize as I type this, there is a strange kind of twisted hope in that fight you can’t win. It’s misguided, but it’s still a kind of hope.

Anyway, that image is up on my door, to remind me daily to let go, to stop fighting. Resistance IS futile. The virtue of the small. It’s an essential part of being human, we’re not going to win. We are frail little creatures with very little power on the grand scale of things. You doubt this? Just run yourself up against a tsunami, or a forest fire, or an oncoming train. Heck just spend a few hours in a nursing home, you’ll see what frail little miracles these bodies of ours are, all the ways they can fail us, all the ways the world can beat us down.

And maybe it’s because there is this Achilles heel to who we are, this underlying weakness we never want to look in the eye, the frailty and impermanence of our existence, maybe that’s what makes our life and our lives all the more precious. We fight against our weakness, but there is an underlying value to our powerlessness. And we fight it, because that’s part of being human too. It’s so hard to embrace our own weakness, to see how we fight against it.

But that fight makes me tired, I’ll like to let it go. Instead, I like this line from a Dan Magan song:  “Try to break up with your pride, start to flirt with satisfied.”

Incidentally, it’s also a small miracle I could pull this post off tonight. I’m really bloody tired. And I think I’d be less tired, if I could just relax and let myself be tired for a while, let myself sleep …and flirt with satisfied.

Ooooo, I get it! See Day 77 – Brian Eno and Piglet!

4 thoughts on “Day 75 – the virtue of the small

  1. Yeah, I was hopeful in reading the Te of Piglet because of the idea of celebrating the virtue of something small. I like the idea of the preciousness of small things, finding the strength in the small. The Tao of Pooh was such a good read, that I was a little let down with the Te. Where the Tao of Pooh was playfully wise, The Te of piglet seemed to be more about expressing frustration and anger towards those who couldn’t see the value of the small.

    Being in the hospital recently both as a visitor and as a patient I got a dose of appreciating the small miracles of life. In fact the patent in the next bed in the trauma unit where I was, died while I was present. And the whole time I was there hooked up to the heart monitors, the nurses were preparing the body for viewing, the family came in to pay their last respects, the nurses returned and prepared the body for pick up, and the funeral home staff came with their body bag to take the body away. Pretty surreal. I faced my mortality that day and surprisingly, I was pretty calm about the whole thing.

    I love that line “Try to break up with your pride, start to flirt with satisfied.” Wisdom with humour is always a bonus.


  2. Yeah, that’s what I remember about the book too. Too bad. I think there’s something really powerful about the idea of the virtue of the small, and I don’t think it really got explored there.

    I think I’m trying to explore it, but I’m also really fighting it, so there’s something really powerful I’m not getting, or something, I don’t know. Guess I’ve got another 25 days to work on that, or my whole life….


  3. I like the print. Makes me feel better about all the wrestling I do, all my repeating struggles. The patience of the angel, the matter of factness in their faces. The feeling of a wide world and so many other things to do. What do I do if I’m not fighting?

    Skipping over to your day 82 post… That hurling yourself at the usual limits of your life, and finding the limits are walls, hard, solid. I agree that hurling yourself is the only way to find out that the walls are still there. Similarily, a couple of years ago I made a lot of changes and suddenly put energy into asking for help. (Help with my chronic illness, or maybe just my chronic sudoku habit.) That’s the only way I could find out that there still aren’t miracle cures for me. Despite all the loss of change, despite all the balls I dropped because I moved my energy into trying the advice of various helpers. Despite the humiliations of asking for help, and the step by step failure. But I tried and now I can accept some limits as given, and move on.

    I still feel regret that I went asking for and trying out help. What I see intellectually isn’t reaching what I feel. Maybe I’ll keep regretting, until I regain my former positions in life. Some of that position is very clear, but some is very vague. Hopefully that vagueness won’t give me a persistent “the grass was always greener” nostalgia. Or maybe I’ll be able to lose the regret somehow.


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