I love underdog stories, and I don’t think it’s just me. There is something in all of us that roots for the battlers who overcome odds to achieve greatness. We can appreciate and enjoy the large, anticipated successes, but there’s something special about surprising success when small stars with small budgets achieve huge success, like the movie Slumdog Millionaire.
I guess we love this because we want to believe that our small talents and ordinary efforts can make a huge difference. It’s what gives us hope.
Beasts of the Southern Wild is especially meaningful. It’s a small movie that makes a large impact. The 9 year old lead Hushpuppy, played by unknown Quvenzhané Wallis, said in the film,
I see that I am a little piece of a big, big universe, and that makes it right.
We all want to believe that we are small pieces of a big universe. It makes us feel that our lives have purpose. We feel like we fit in some meaningful way.
Carl Sagan introduced the idea of the Cosmic Calendar, where the history of the universe is scaled down to a single year. If the Big Bang took place on January 1, the Milky Way emerged in May. Other planets followed in June, July and August. The earth and our sun arrived mid-September. Life on earth came soon after. But humans didn’t appear until December 31 at 11.59 pm. In other words, it’s as if we arrived on the scene just a few seconds ago. Within those few seconds, in a blink of a cosmic eye, we became aware of our role in a massive thirteen billion year evolutionary process.
We’ve barely had time to process our few seconds of life, still rubbing our eyes trying to wake up to our place in the enormity of it all. Sagan said, “We are like butterflies who flutter for a day and think it is forever.” Small flutters in the cosmic metamorphosis. And yet we know from the Butterfly Effect that small flutters in one place create monumental changes in another place far away. Small is not only beautiful. Small is amazing. Small is transformational.
Piglet experienced this in Winnie the Pooh, as A A Milne said so well,
Piglet noticed that even though he had a Very Small Heart, it could hold a rather large amount of Gratitude.
Our small and limited minds are capable of imagining enormous possibilities, and dreaming the biggest dreams. Our small hearts are capable of enormous gratitude and love. Our small efforts have the potential for enormous good in the world.
It all comes down to what you want your life to stand for? I enjoy looking at epitaphs in cemeteries. When you only have a few words, and a small amount of space, you really have to get to the essence of a person’s life. There is an epitaph in a cemetery in New England which includes these words, “She attended well and faithfully to a few worthy things.”
As I think about it, I would be proud to have words like these to sum up my life. To be faithful in just a few, worthy things is the mark of a great life.
So what happens next? According to Sagan’s cosmic calendar we are about to usher in a new year.
We have a few short years to do what we can to contribute to the good of the world, and hopefully our efforts can in some small way further some cosmic purpose.
As Paulo Coelho says in The Alchemist,
We are travelers on a cosmic journey, stardust, swirling and dancing in the eddies and whirlpools of infinity. Life is eternal. We have stopped for a moment to encounter each other, to meet, to love, to share. This is a precious moment. It is a little parenthesis in eternity.