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The Triviality Of Trivialities

Categories: Uncategorized
Sources: As A Matter Of Course

LIFE is clearer, happier, and easier for us as things assume their

true proportions. I might better say, as they come nearer in

appearance to their true proportions; for it seems doubtful whether

any one ever reaches the place in this world where the sense of

proportion is absolutely normal. Some come much nearer than others;

and part of the interest of living is the growing realization of

better proportion, and the re
ief from the abnormal state in which

circumstances seem quite out of proportion in their relation to one


Imagine a landscape-painter who made his cows as large as the

houses, his blades of grass waving above the tops of the trees, and

all things similarly disproportionate. Or, worse, imagine a disease

of the retina which caused a like curious change in the landscape

itself wherein a mountain appeared to be a mole-hill, and a

mole-hill a mountain.

It seems absurd to think of. And, yet, is not the want of a true

sense of proportion in the circumstances and relations of life quite

as extreme with many of us? It is well that our physical sense

remains intact. If we lost that too, there would seem to be but

little hope indeed. Now, almost the only thing needed for a rapid

approach to a more normal mental sense of proportion is a keener

recognition of the want. But this want must be found first in

ourselves, not in others. There is the inclination to regard our own

life as bigger and more important than the life of any one about us;

or the reverse attitude of bewailing its lack of importance, which

is quite the same. In either case our own life is dwelt upon first.

Then there is the immediate family, after that our own especial

friends,--all assuming a gigantic size which puts quite out of the

question an occasional bird's-eye view of the world in general. Even

objects which might be in the middle distance of a less extended

view are quite screened by the exaggerated size of those which seem

to concern us most immediately.

One's own life is important; one's own family and friends are

important, very, when taken in their true proportion. One should

surely be able to look upon one's own brothers and sisters as if

they were the brothers and sisters of another, and to regard the

brothers and sisters of another as one's own. Singularly, too, real

appreciation of and sympathy with one's own grows with this broader

sense of relationship. In no way is this sense shown more clearly

than by a mother who has the breadth and the strength to look upon

her own children as if they belonged to some one else, and upon the

children of others as if they belonged to her. But the triviality of

magnifying one's own out of all proportion has not yet been

recognized by many.

So every trivial happening in our own lives or the lives of those

connected with us is exaggerated, and we keep ourselves and others

in a chronic state of contraction accordingly.

Think of the many trifles which, by being magnified and kept in the

foreground, obstruct the way to all possible sight or appreciation

of things that really hold a more important place. The cook, the

waitress, various other annoyances of housekeeping; a gown that does

not suit, the annoyances of travel, whether we said the right thing

to so-and-so, whether so-and-so likes us or does not like

us,--indeed, there is an immense army of trivial imps, and the

breadth of capacity for entertaining these imps is so large in some

of us as to be truly encouraging; for if the domain were once

deserted by the imps, there remains the breadth, which must have the

same capacity for holding something better. Unfortunately, a long

occupancy by these miserable little offenders means eventually the

saddest sort of contraction. What a picture for a new Gulliver!--a

human being overwhelmed by the imps of triviality, and bound fast to

the ground by manifold windings of their cobweb-sized thread.

This exaggeration of trifles is one form of nervous disease. It

would be exceedingly interesting and profitable to study the various

phases of nervous disease as exaggerated expressions of perverted

character. They can be traced directly and easily in many cases. If

a woman fusses about trivialities, she fusses more when she is

tired. The more fatigue, the more fussing; and with a persistent

tendency to fatigue and fussing it does not take long to work up or

down to nervous prostration. From this form of nervous excitement

one never really recovers, except by a hearty acknowledgment of the

trivialities as trivialities, when, with growing health, there is a

growing sense of true proportion.

I have seen a woman spend more attention, time, and nerve-power on

emphasizing the fact that her hands were all stained from the dye on

her dress than a normal woman would take for a good hour's work. As

she grew better, this emphasizing of trivialities decreased, but, of

course, might have returned with any over-fatigue, unless it had

been recognized, taken at its worth, and simply dropped. Any one can

think of example after example in his own individual experience,

when he has suffered unnecessary tortures through the regarding of

trifling things, either by himself or by some one near him. With

many, the first instance will probably be to insist, with emphasis

and some feeling, that they are _not_ trivialities.

Trivialities have their importance _when given their true proportion_.

The size of a triviality is often exaggerated as much by neglect as

by an undue amount of attention. When we do what we can to amend an

annoyance, and then think no more about it until there appears

something further to do, the saving of nervous force is very great.

Yet, so successful have these imps of triviality come to be in their

rule of human nature that the trivialities of the past are

oftentimes dwelt upon with as much earnestness as if they belonged

to the present.

The past itself is a triviality, except in its results. Yet what an

immense screen it is sometimes to any clear understanding or

appreciation of the present! How many of us have listened over and

over to the same tale of past annoyances, until we wonder how it can

be possible that the constant repetition is not recognized by the

narrator! How many of us have been over and over in our minds past

troubles, little and big, so that we have no right whatever to feel

impatient when listening to such repetitions by others! Here again

we have, in nervous disease, the extreme of a common trait in

humanity. With increased nervous fatigue there is always an increase

of the tendency to repetition. Best drop it before it gets to the

fatigue stage, if possible.

Then again there are the common things of life, such as dressing and

undressing, and the numberless every-day duties. It is possible to

distort them to perfect monstrosities by the manner of dwelling upon

them. Taken as a matter of course, they are the very triviality of

trivialities, and assume their place without second thought.

When life seems to get into such a snarl that we despair of

disentangling it, a long journey and change of human surroundings

enable us to take a distant view, which not uncommonly shows the

tangle to be no tangle at all. Although we cannot always go upon a

material journey, we can change the mental perspective, and it is

this adjustment of the focus which brings our perspective into truer

proportions. Having once found what appears to be the true focus,

let us be true to it. The temptations to lose one's focus are many,

and sometimes severe. When temporarily thrown off our balance, the

best help is to return at once, without dwelling on the fact that we

have lost the focus longer than is necessary to find it again. After

that, our focus is better adjusted and the range steadily expanded.

It is impossible for us to widen the range by thinking about it;

holding the best focus we know in our daily experience does that

Thus the proportions arrange themselves; we cannot arrange the

proportions. Or, what is more nearly the truth, the proportions are

in reality true, to begin with. As with the imaginary eye-disease,

which transformed the relative sizes of the component parts of a

landscape, the fault is in the eye, not in the landscape; so, when

the circumstances of life are quite in the wrong proportion to one

another, in our own minds, the trouble is in the mental sight, not

in the circumstances.

There are many ways of getting a better focus, and ridding one's

self of trivial annoyances. One is, to be quiet; get at a good

mental distance. Be sure that you have a clear view, and then hold

it. Always keep your distance; never return to the old stand-point

if you can manage to keep away.

We may be thankful if trivialities annoy us as trivialities. It is

with those who have the constant habit of dwelling on them without

feeling the discomfort that a return to freedom seems impossible.

As one comes to realize, even in a slight degree, the triviality of

trivialities, and then forget them entirely in a better idea of true

proportion, the sense of freedom gained is well worth working for.

It certainly brings the possibility of a normal nervous system much