LIFE MATTERS: Smallness

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By (Ret.) Col. Dr. Dennis Acop

One thing good about retirement is that I now have the focused opportunity to sit back and look at the larger scope with seasoned but also fresh eyes. There was a time in my life when I thought the world revolved around me. Needless to say, I then saw myself as somewhat big. Today however, feeling such is farthest from my sight. I just scan the horizon and quickly realize that smallness, than bigness, is more like it. Not just for me but us all. In fact, we feel so helpless at times. There’s the pandemic on top of all the dramas that characterize human existence. There’s the vastness of the world not to mention the universe. And there’s transcendence that continues to baffle us and is more pronounced in the face of extreme adversity when ego is finally reduced where it belongs.

The tree for the forest. I am sure there was a time in your life when you felt that the world revolved around you. It was the time when you were so focused on your studies or livelihood that the world around you became just a blur. When you raised a family and could only care for what mattered to you most. When you nurtured a career that consumed all your passions and every waking hour or late night candle. When you were so focused on your dreams and ambitions that you could taste them. When you thought you got it all made as things went your way just as you wanted it. Then you said life or God is good all the time. Though you were referring really more towards your good fortunes in life than the vast goodness that the Transcendent God is. What you thought was bigness.

Then a little over a century from the last one, the current global pandemic hit and suddenly the bigness is gone. Replaced by a smallness that has always been there and truer than its overestimated masquerade. If life’s dramas were not enough to cut man’s ego down to pieces, the global pandemic surely did. Suddenly, man is made to realize that no earthly wealth or power is big enough to equal the magnitude of the threat that befalls him. That he is not big enough. In fact, he is not big at all. Careers, positions, possessions, and all the things that point toward bigness as man’s defining moment of success no longer matter in the face of total annihilation. Man is small after all.

Nothing illustrates better man’s smallness than a telescopic view of the universe in all its vastness in terms of time and space. It even evokes a deep emotion that is both exhilarating and painful. Positive because it awe-inspires a cultivation of the right brain which enhances man’s capacity for the divine that lies within himself. But also remorseful because it exposes man’s sad error in thinking himself god based on a left brain concept that worships the material reality but trivializes the greater divine realm. Man has it all figured out in reverse. He believes his smallness to be big. And his bigness to be small.

But despite his propensity for self-affliction in the values that truly matter, man has a gift that allows him to rise above his smallness towards a bigness so unfathomable he cannot even begin to imagine. Unfortunately, this gift only becomes apparent to him at the pain of suffering and death. When he is forced to reach deep within himself for the inner power to transcend his physical, emotional, and spiritual pain and annihilation. When he is twisted around to let go of his ego. That stumbling block that prevents him from using more his right brain where the presence of the Transcendent lies. Where he is forced to humble himself and rely upon a Power greater than himself. Then crippled, broken, small man begins to rise above the ashes of impossibility towards something initially thought improbable only because man’s capacity for divinity remained untapped. Selfishness has a way of strapping us to our smallness. Threat or no threat. Though threats have a way of enlightening us. Only selflessness, unleashed through our transcendent selves, can lead us to our redeemed lives. Our bigness.

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