Small And Simple Things Are Beautiful


By Zile Singh

“The journey of a thousand miles starts with a small single step.  Do the difficult things while they are easy and do the great things while they are small.” – Lao Tzu.

Nobody would have thought that small things like washing your hands frequently, wearing a mask on your nose and mouth and keeping a safe distance from another person would be a panacea to ward off a pandemic like Covid-19, which by now has engulfed millions of human lives.  More lives are still at risk. Nations are in a mode of fright. Though there are vaccines available now, the pandemic has changed to various variants.

An Air Force reconnaissance airplane with 27 airmen aboard caught fire in April 2015 in the United States. All because a tiny retaining nut connecting oxygen tubing was not tightened properly. This loose nut cost the Air Force $62.4 million. There have been many incidents of fire and gas leakages in big industrial establishments due to small negligence which have caused enormous amounts of loss of cash and kind.  The sting of a small ant   becomes unbearable for a big man. Micro-organisms such as viruses, not visible to the naked eye, can make a healthy body, even an animal as big as an elephant paralyzed or even take one’s life.

In developed countries, the life expectancy is more than 80 years.  These eighty years are made up of seconds, minutes, days, months and years.  In our quest to reach successful heights we have lost sight of the fact that our life is made up of small things and moments one after the other.  The failure to recognize and appreciate the role of small and simple things in life breeds an inability to enjoy life.  The people who are at the deathbed might tell you that things you usually think “big” are in fact, relatively insignificant; whereas the things you think small, are in fact most important. After hearing their experience, you may re-experience the feeling that life is magical and every moment is to be treasured. Robert Collier said, “Success is the sum of small efforts, repeated day in and day out.”  No one was born great.  Small efforts have accomplished many astounding feats of brilliance.  With small efforts, people have earned grand titles and have become so untouchable. If one wants and tries hard and pays attention to changing small habits in life, most of the things are possible. If we ignore a small matter, over time it takes the shape of a big issue and becomes difficult to sort out.  Therefore, it is said, “A stitch in time saves nine.” Let us remember that small drops of water make an ocean.

“Be master of your petty annoyances and conserve your energies for worthwhile things.  It is not the mountain that wears you out, it is the grain of sand in your shoe.” said Robert Service.  Among the petty annoyances, anger is one of the most dangerous habits which sap our physical energy and mental ability. It greatly increases the risk of many life-threatening diseases like heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure, depression, anxiety and emotional disorder.  Psychologists suggest that anger arises from hurt.  Focus on the hurt, not at anger.  One minute’s diversion can avoid anger.  Pay attention to your strong self and listen to other’s points of view also.  Anger restrained is wisdom gained.  The traffic rules are not a big philosophy of life.  These are simple.  Stop at a red light.  Get ready to move on amber and go on at the green signal. See and be seen.   A very simple formula of MSM (see in the Mirror, give Signal and then Manoeuvre) can avoid fatal accidents.  But if we ignore these simple rules, something unprecedented can happen.

We are in the habit of watching others.  We do not watch ourselves.

To watch oneself is a simple thing and it is the most important for peace of mind.  One has to start watching the body: walking, sitting, talking and eating.  One should start from the solid because it is easier.  After some time, it would be easy to watch the subtler things like breath, thoughts, feelings etc.  In this process of watching, the watcher becomes strong. And once you, as a watcher, become strong, then day-to-day upheavals won’t bother you much. A realization will prevail that this bad time too will pass.

We all are living in a beautiful multicultural country. A small duty on our part to obey the laws, elect the right representatives without fear and favour and raise our voice against violence, drug abuse and racial discrimination will go a long way in establishing ourselves as true citizens. At the same time, we should not stick to our guns for small parochial issues. Medicine works in small doses.

“It’s the little details that are vital. Little things make big things happen”.- John Wooden

Zile Singh is a well respected Columnist, Writer and a Vipassana Meditater. He has a Post-Graduate Diploma in Human Rights.  He can be reached at [email protected]