Wednesday, 14 January 2015

'The Day of Small Things' is Not to be Despised: Because Bullets are Small Things, Too

Okay, so it's a tricky-to-translate verse. But Zechariah 4:10   is clear in intent, if not in exact wording: small things, or small beginnings, are easily overlooked, easily patronised, easily marginalised; yet small things are no less important or meaningful than big things.  The Bible is, I think, on the side of the small things: the mustard seed, the widow's mite, the cloud as small as a persons hand that brings the longed-for rain that Elijah foretells.

I don't know about you, but I've felt somewhat overwhelmed by big things this last week as I've read the news. Euopean anti-semitism, Islamophobia, jihadism, the ominous rise in fascist politics, the shocking massacre in Nigeria, the unfolding horrors of South Sudan, the ongoing awfulness in Syria and Iraq...The weight of the world's sorrows and scandals can seem too heavy to bear sometimes.

I am glad that the Bible is on the side of the small things. Because everything is, when you come down to it, a small thing. Blaming a particular group of people for the world's ills is a small thing; it might be just an off-the-cuff remark. Listening to an articulation of an extremist ideology is a small thing; it might be the flick of a television channel. Turning away from the needs of the most vulnerable is a small thing; it might be doing nothing at all (after all, what could be easier than that?) Loading a bullet, I'd imagine, is a small thing, not that I ever have or would do such a thing. Pointing it at someone's head is, in and of itself, a small movement of an angle.

Life is made up of small things. Small, repeated, learnt things that over time accrue significance, confer meaning and shape identity. And this, I think, is why we cannot afford to despise the day of the small things: because bullets are small things, too.

And because life is, inevitably, made up of small things; because  we ourselves are made up of small things, it is our task to allow these small things to speak of peace, of love, and of hope in a world desperately crying out for those things which are beyond size altogether.

On of the small things I do is to host a little inter-faith group at home, in my relatively small village. The handful of us, with our Sikh and Christian and Hindu and Muslim and Jewish identities sit and eat each other's cooking and hear each other's stories and ask each other some pretty searching questions about what it means to be a person of faith. Then we share out the leftover cakes and bakes, and each one of us takes home to our families a little taster of our inter-faith friendship. It's a small thing; it might be a slice of cholla  or a Diwali sweet or a mini Stollen bite.  Yet these little morsels of friendship and understanding are every bit as significant as a bullet or an extremist podcast. The small things we share in our inter-faith teas are, I believe, the antidote to the small things that gradually add up and become the big things on our television screens. The small thing we do to love and to accept each other cannot be overlooked or patronised or marginalised; its significance cannot be measured. It night be a smile or a chat at the school gate or a refusal to blame a scapegoated people. It might be the flick of a television channel or an off-the cuff remark. It might even be doing nothing at all.

We cannot afford to despise the day of small things, because life is, inevitably, made up of small things; because we, inevitably are made up of small things; because in doing so, we despise life altogether. We cannot afford to despise the day of small things because if we do, we fail to see that every small thing has within it the capacity to swell and expand, for good or for evil. We cannot afford to despise the day of small things, because bullets are small things, too.

     


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