Look At The Small Picture, Not The Big Picture

You’ve got to get with the big picture!  

You’ve got to remember the big picture!  

You’ve got to see the forest for the trees, man!  

Get outside yourself, and look at everything! 

These are the things people scream at us.  How many times have we heard a variation of this theme?  Well?  How many times?  Quite a few, I would imagine.

We are constantly being told that we need to perceive the larger whole, and that by somehow doing this, we will be able to achieve some sort of cognition of the grand sublimity of the Unknown.  And I would say that it is good, in general, to have an awareness of concepts greater than us.

Of things larger than us.

But here is the problem.  It’s often not possible to see the “big picture.”  Worse still, it’s often bloody depressing to focus on the big picture.

The big picture is usually not our friend.  He is our enemy.  There.  I said it.

Why is this so?

Because the big picture is demoralizing.  It is overwhelming.

It fills us with the unwanted awareness that we control very, very little.  It is a little too comprehensive.  A goldfish thrown into a new fish-tank can die of shock, you know, if it gets too much awareness of the big picture in too short a time.

To build confidence, we must focus on the little, not the big.  Small steps, consistently taken, eventually become grand journeys.  The small is so much more important than the grandiose concept, most of the time.

All this “big picture” talk.  It reminds me of the banalities that are bandied about here and there:  have an abundance mentality! Abundance!  Abundance!  Abundance!

My response to that was:  well, sometimes you don’t have any bloody abundance.  Sometimes you don’t have two sticks to rub together.  Sometimes all you have is your fucking boots and your knife.  And that is enough.  Together with your spirit.  That is when you let your rage create things for you.

Let your defiance become your abundance, I said once here before.

When you are feeling crushed by life, don’t focus on the big picture.  It is your enemy, at least for the time being.

Focus on the small picture.  The window of space in front of your eyes.  The things you can control.  

Ah, you say.  But nothing important ever comes from the little picture!

And how wrong you would be.

Some of the greatest scientific discoveries came from the observation of seemingly irrelevant phenomena.  Max Planck observed the quantum nature of energy as early as 1900, and was not immediately aware of its revolutionary significance.  It would not be until 1905, when Albert Einstein’s analysis of the photoelectric effect was published, that the implications really became apparent.

Einstein, that impudent rebel!

And even then, Einstein was never quite able to accept the big picture of quantum theory.  Even geniuses need to blot out the big picture, to keep themselves getting up in the morning, and going about their business.  Why should we be any different?

So those who snub the little picture and call it unimportant miss a critical point.

Sometimes in life, morale and spirit is more important than truth and understanding.  We, the average man, are beset on all sides by difficulties, often on a daily basis.  It is more productive for us–more useful for us–to select those things we can control, than to worry about grand “big picture” theories.

I am not a lover of great theories of everything.  You can keep your big pictures, for now.  Let me build myself and my morale, by focusing on the smaller, vastly more important picture.  And later, in my own good time, I will construct my own Grand Unified Field Theory.

If history has taught us anything, it is that new theories and new paradigms come along every few generations.  And each one believes itself more “correct” than its predecessor.

No doubt our remote ancestors will smile at our own ignorance, just as we laugh at the hapless fools who gazed up at the night sky in 1150 and knew so little about what they saw.  And yet those same fools were able to construct some of the noblest and most inspiring structures–Europe’s high Gothic cathedrals–that have ever graced the sky.

They worried about the stones, chisels, bricks, and mortar in front of them.  The little picture.

They could have cared less about the big picture.  And yet their monuments stand, to this day, more glorious than ever, grasping the immensity of the heavens.

And yet all the old big picture theories have disintegrated into nothingness.

And maybe there is something to be said for that.


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