More on Thinking Little

By , November 7, 2012

Previously, I wrote about the Wendell Berry’s concept of Thinking Little. Along these same lines, an observation in Barbara Kingsolver’s The Poisonwood Bible (your local independent bookstore, or virtually any garage sale you come across will have a copy) has always impressed me. I can no longer quote the specific passage, but she observed that in the Belgian Congo, the major upheavals in their political landscape had almost no bearing on the day-to-day lives of most of the citizens. Concerned with making their own living from their modest gardens and the surrounding forest, their lives remained much the same no matter what the bigwigs did.

When I read this, I thought again of the concept of Thinking Little, living below the radar, of making one’s self and one’s business too small to be of consequence to The Powers That Be.

As Americans, we all seem to want wealth, importance, and fame. We want to be noticed, to have an impact on others. I usually find that avoiding these temptations seems to be a better practice.

Obviously, I can’t say I eschew all notoriety. Certainly, we want more visitors to our Website, including this blog. I spend a fair amount of time and energy promoting my book. The irony that you’re reading these thoughts in a post on the Internet is not lost on me. I can’t really claim to be below the radar when I’m broadcasting our presence and activities to the world at large, now, can I? Many people who live, or aspire to live as we do, heap scorn on our Web site and blog as calling unnecessary attention to our situation. I see their point in some ways, but I guess my basic view of human nature is more optimistic than theirs.

But in other ways: the modest scope of my business, paring debt down to the absolute minimum, keeping quiet about our political and spiritual views for the most part, and, in general “keeping ourselves to ourselves” (as best as I can understand that somewhat cryptic phrase) keeps us out of the way of a large portion of the world’s troubles.

It had not occurred to me just how dedicated we might really be to Thinking Little until recently. We recently watched a silly, funny movie about reporting on Hollywood stars, in which being famous, or at least hobnobbing with those who were seemed to be the characters’ prime motivation. Considering this afterward, I assumed that I was just as eager as anyone else to do this, but almost as I thought this, I finished an email to yet another television producer, thanking them for their invitation, but no, we would not be interested in being profiled in their documentary. I’ve lost count—I think this is our ninth or tenth pitch from producers of reality shows, documentaries, and contests. It dawned on me that these shows are currently the quickest path to notoriety for the average American. If I really wanted to be famous, this would be the route to pursue. And yet, once again, I passed up the opportunity.

Maybe I’m walking my walk after all?

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