This I Believe
I believe in the power of the particular. Life is measured in small gestures. Good and evil wage ongoing eternal epic battle. But the battle does not take place in grand and momentous choices. Each day we add weight in small measures like grains of sand to both sides. We go to a funeral even though we don’t want to – a gentle weight is added to one side. We gossip and demean a colleague and a grain is added to the other.
The power of the particular makes loving individuals more important than loving “mankind”. Mankind does not need a phone call when feeling lonely – the elderly woman next door does. Mankind does not need a babysitter when the kids are being crazy – but a new mother does. Mankind does need a deathbed vigil – your aunt does. Compassion is always individual, particular – and sand is added.
The power of the particular gives words their force and eloquence. Naming is a deep and ancient human ritual. When we name people, we recognize the fragment of the divine that exists in all human beings. When we name ideas, we can get our minds around them, nurture them, grow them, wrestle with them, extend them and make them our own. When we name our fears, we can face and embrace them. When we name dreams, we stretch for the stars and make it possible to reach them. Stories, both real and imagined, grant us deep truths by moving us into the lives and worlds of named others.
It is in the power of the particular that we live our lives. We make uncountable choices for good and for evil. The smallest of our acts weigh in. We love one another in individual ways. We grant or withhold dignity to particular people. We grapple with, and sometimes grasp, deep understandings from the smallest moments of our lives. We dream dreams with names. This is why I believe in the power of the particular.
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