The Tiny Little Things

1 October 2019 Lorin Clarke

The Tiny Little Things

You’ve probably heard that mind-blowing fact about how when you condense the entirety of Earth’s history into a year, humans don’t arrive until that weird little period after Christmas and before New Year.

We are tiny, even all of us together. Even all the people you’ve never met in countries you’ve never visited and the ones who, centuries ago, invented the things you now take for granted, like pepper shakers and medicine and hats. All of us. You and me and Marie Curie and Hitler and Ghandi and the first cavewoman to light a fire and all the people you’ve never heard of who could have shaped human history but who lived at the wrong time to be allowed that privilege and whose name does not therefore echo down the ages into the present. All of the people ever. Even with all of them, we’re tiny.

Happy New Year! Don’t worry! Everything is tiny!

You being embarrassing all the times you’ve been embarrassing: not going to be remembered in the big History of the World yearbook. It won’t say: this person invaded Poland, this person discovered radium, and this person acted like a total idiot at her work Christmas party. Remember: humans don’t even ARRIVE until late December. Unless you live for hundreds of thousands of years, you are not that important. No offence. None of us is – which really takes the pressure off when you think about it.
How much money you earn won’t make the yearbook either. There will be no pie graph like in a company’s annual report that compares us all. There will be no prize for best looking or most likes on Instagram or best parent or most successful at romantic relationships and there won’t, sadly, be any prizes for most cups of tea consumed in a lifetime (am quietly confident, should this become a category).
Li’l secret for you here too…some of the people who think they’re going to be in the yearbook, yeah, bad news for them, won’t be in the yearbook. This goes for your awful manager, your devious ex, your lying politicians and that obnoxious person who talks over you because he knows so much better. The lying politician might sneak into the index but at this rate it will be under “environment, destroyer of” or “democracy, a danger to”, so probably not a scene you want to be part of.

So if everything – bar a few dramatic eventualities – is too small to rate a mention in the big yearbook, what should we do? How do we spend our time? Well this is where the small things really matter, you see, because they’re not getting in the yearbook. It’s our job, then, to notice them. To relish them and enjoy them and document them and share them.
Happy New Year: everything is tiny.

The way birds carry on in a birdbath: tiny. Won’t get a mention in the year book.

The taste of a really great combination of things in a sandwich: never should this tiny thing be underestimated.

A sensational curry.

Watching a thunderstorm.

Arriving somewhere you’ve never been before in the dark. The shapes and smells foreign to you but the stars, high up, deep and friendly. Somewhere, a bed.

A conversation you didn’t expect, with a person you presumed you knew enough about. That turning out to be wrong. You, talking to the person, that wrong presumption dissolving in your mind as you speak.
Raspberries. Tiny.

Holding a shell. A tiny architectural nature house thrown about by the monstrous sea but gleaming and perfect in the palm of your hand.

The feeling of having made somebody feel better.

Giggling with strangers.

Laughing with friends.

That thing where you’ve stood in line practising buying the same sandwich you always buy and then you open your mouth and you order a completely new sandwich and you can’t even believe yourself and you’re already cataloguing the wrong turns you have made that led you to this Terrible Sandwich Decision – and then you take a bite and lo! Your brain’s reckless act of daring totally pays off and you look around to high five someone about your slightly different sandwich but it’s too small to celebrate. 

Watering a garden at night.

An animal sleeping on you.

This year might feel like a fresh start or a scary new chapter or a droning continuation of yesterday. But don’t worry. It’s tiny. Public Service Announcement: none of it matters as much as we think it does. This year, bear witness to the important things: thunderstorms and birds and raspberries.

Lorin Clarke is a Melbourne-based writer. The second season of her radio series, The Fitzroy Diaries, is on ABC Radio National and the ABC Listen app now. 

First published in The Big Issue ed#602