I’m sure you’ve heard the quip, “it’s like rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic.” It means that to putter around with superficial changes is a waste of time and energy when what’s called for is fundamental transformation, a completely new direction, deep work, important work. It also suggests a fair amount of futility — things are sinking fast, in case you hadn’t noticed, so get off your duff and prepare for emergency evacuation if it’s not already too late!
I’ve encountered this metaphor so many times that I had started to believe it. And yeah yeah, I’m sure it can be aptly applied to plenty of situations. And I don’t doubt that it was clever when whoever first thought it up thought it up.
But I’ve been bumping into it too much lately, and I’m ready to call “bull crap” on the entire premise. It seems to me neither helpful nor empowering. It’s both high-pressure and bleak, which is a lousy combination.
I mean, in the first place: who says this boat’s going down? I’m not offering that we turn a blind-eye or deny a problem when there’s a problem, and of course we’ve got stuff to do individually and together as we create a workable world. But holy cow, if we’re approaching Life like it’s a disaster waiting to happen, then no wonder so many of us are stressed-out anxious wrecks.
Second: I take issue with the idea that small means insignificant. Knocking someone (or belittling ourselves) for rearranging the deck chairs sounds pretty judge-y and mean. Also, short-sighted. Because I can think of many scenarios in which making one small change inspired a whole world of cascading transformations. Maybe reorganizing the deck makes it more pleasant to do everything else that needs to be done; seems worthwhile to me. Maybe every seemingly superficial thing, every little thing, is an essential part of everything great and glorious.
Emerson writes, “There is no great and no small to the Soul that maketh all;
and whence It cometh all things are, and It cometh everywhere.”
The Soul flourishes alike in impressive heroic feats and in tiny connections and anonymous kindnesses. It all matters. And the important thing is to put our hearts into whatever we’re up to, whether saving the galaxy or writing a sweet thank you note.
Furthermore, wherever we’re headed, we’re going. And while we’re getting there, shouldn’t we position our chairs how we want them? So we can see the view, so we can talk if we want, so we have convenient access to both the bar and the pool, so we’re not tripping over them… Let’s enjoy this ride, my friends.
© 2018 Drew Groves