Asking whether what you do is great or small is missing the point, for it is your experience that counts. Whether you are building a sand castle or La Sagrada Familia, you may derive the same satisfaction. The same immersion —being in flow, one with the activity. Thus, it is a mistake to categorise things as great or small, without first looking at your experience of it.
Satisfaction through your own path
A thing may be trivial to others, but deeply satisfying to you. And, it is precisely this experience of the thing that many miss, often because they are playing a different game. A game of status and achievement that constantly defers happiness to future ‘great’ things. A game that keeps them feeling hollow because they ignore the wonder of the ordinary. Because they ignore the ‘small’ that is already complete in one’s experience of it.
The ancient sage, Chuang Tzu, tells the story of a peng (a mythical bird with a huge wing span) and a young dove. The peng needs to ascend to a great height in order to be able to fly over great waters. The dove, on the other hand, can easily fly up to a tree with no obstacles. Yet, their individual experiences may not be so different, though one is great and one is small.
“If there is satisfaction to their nature, the peng has nothing to be proud of in comparison with the small bird, and the small bird has no desire for the Celestial Lake. Therefore, though there is a difference between the great and the small, their happiness is the same”.
Great or small is missing the point
So, it is with our own activities. We can get caught-up in endless comparisons — bending out of shape and jumping through hoops to feel like we are doing ‘great’ things. Yet, the faster we run, and the higher we jump. no closer do we feel to a point of arrival. The great mountain top is never reached, for there was never one to begin with.
For, what matters is not whether something is great or small, rather your own experience of it. Are you in your element when doing it? How alive do you feel? What is your experience of it?
It matters not whether you are the peng or the dove, just that you fly.
Harsha is a 1:1 coach and independent thinker based in London. He empowers people to find more clarity, confidence and focus in their lives — to cut through the noise, in a world so full of it. Harsha’s new book, Machine Ego: Tragedy of the Modern Mind, is now available in paperback and Kindle through Amazon.