on being small

January 22, 2016 - Daily Notes

Well-trodden paths from house to house, that is the image that holds hope for our future.
— David Steindl-Rast on On Being, Anatomy of Gratitude

Every morning almost, I walk from my house to the coffee shop. I know the baristas by name and they know me. They ask things like, "How's Lucia coming?" and "Did you get any text selfies from your niece this morning?"

I ask them things like, "How was the show last night?" and "Have you found an apartment in New York yet?" We know one another. A little bit more each day. Enough to lift our spirits in small exchanges with genuine interest and curiosity.

Last night I had tea with a new friend. He is an entrepreneur with an exciting business that is helping people connect with one another face-to-face in meaningful ways at airports. We met last autumn while learning to dance salsa. He asked if I could do a small writing project for his startup--writing from the heart in exchange for exposure to his audience. What he proposed inspired me and I could feel new ideas bubble up as we talked. I said yes.

I've been thinking about the power of connection for awhile now. How huge and overwhelming the world seems when I enter the network of social media. Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn...billions of links to be made. Creative possibilities seem endless but I think the real potential--the ability to inspire and enlighten--comes not with the number of followers one has or the size of the audience they reach, but with the meaningful exchanges that can only happen when there is a well-trodden path from one heart to another.

I think in order to have this sort of true connection, we must be able to inhabit and treasure smallness.

The women and men who have contributed writing and artwork to Lucia are people I know personally or have gotten to know better in the past year. Each new relationship is meaningful and will take time to develop. We listen to each other. Some stick around. Others flow away. It's really beautiful. 

My heart feels tugged in the direction of small. It might not be what Lucia's original business plan and cash flow projection called for, but it feels fundamental somehow. I can't quite put my finger on what this means yet, but I think it isn't so much about getting thousands of likes for a few fleeting seconds with a photograph of a cappuccino or paintbrushes on social media. Don't get me wrong, I love seeing beautiful images. But what I notice is that the more powerful inspiration comes from relating to and being inspired by real connection: conversations, meetings, meaningful exchanges. One heartbeat at a time. 

How will this translate into success in the independent magazine business? I don't know yet. I guess my work is cut for me. So I'm having another cup of coffee this morning and treasuring smallness for now. You?