"As you make your way in the world, approaching its diversity and complexity by way of the small and striving to be small yourself, remember: the world scorns the small. Plainly, its chief operating principle is contrary to it. The way of the small is a small principle in a world of large ambition and inflation," writes Michael Gellert, a Jungian analyst who was formerly Director of Training at the C. J. Jung Institute of Los Angeles and a humanities professor at Vanier College, Montreal. Grandiosity is the mark of the times in the political schemes of governments, individuals living in big houses way beyond their means, and children who constantly want more of what the consumer society puts in front of their eager eyes. Gellert believes there is another way:
"When we live small, we live with limits and according to our means, in a way that is not inflated either economically or psychologically. This helps us to find success and happiness not only materially, but spiritually. It also helps us cope with such diminishing ordeals as failure, illness, the loss of a loved one, and aging. Living small raises the monotony of daily life to a godly level and reveals God in the little and difficult things. It makes everyday life sacred."
All of the world's religions subscribe to this path of simplicity. Judaism's Mosaic Law makes the ordinary sacred by paying attention to even the smallest concerns such as diet, penalties, and taxes. Christianity puts forward Jesus as a model of simplicity incarnate with many parables about the transformative power of little things. In their devotional dance, whirling dervishes emphasize small precise movements of the hands and head and arms. Taoism emphasizes the way of the small in innumerable passages in the Tao Te Ching. Any yoga practitioner knows it as a discipline of little movements designed to improve the body's health and balance. In Zen Buddhism, the appreciation for the small is evident in the tea ceremony and in flower arrangement.
Gellert salutes the little actions of Mahatma Gandhi, Mother Teresa, Albert Schweitzer, Nelson Mandela, and others who are heroes of the small moral gesture that makes all the difference in the world. He outlines essential principles for living small. Here are a few of them:
• Less is more, simpler is better.
• Know how to persevere and when to quit.
• Celebrate the right details.
• Know when to go with the flow and when against.
• Learn to love vulnerability.
• Face adversity with humor.
• Sacrifice yourself to the jaws of defeat.
• Deal with your own shadow.
• Anticipate death's small portal.
The author makes a good case for the way of the small as an alternative to the path of grandiosity followed by so many individuals and nations. Simplicity and littleness are steps on the path to true joy and happiness.