During the opening “rant” of Episode 830 of his bi-weekly WTF Podcast, Marc Maron said something that resonated with me. He said, “We’ve gotta keep the world big.” I like that. I like it because, for at least a little while, it seems like lots of people have been trying to make the world smaller. Consider: “It’s a Small World”, globalization, the internet. Not to mention echo-chambers, bubbles, and all that. A small world has its potential upside– a greater sense of connectivity, of interconnectedness, interdependence, and so on… some of the promise of globalization and internet-ization. But Maron got me thinking about why a big world is a better than a small world and what it means to keep the world big. It seems to me that the art of living, the task we collectively and individually face, is keeping the world big while still recognizing and honoring the interconnectedness and interdependence that seem so undeniably obvious and yet so elusive and easy to dismiss at the same time.
Maron’s comment was made in the context of setting up his interview with David Remnick, the editor of The New Yorker. He was praising The New Yorker for helping keep the world big by providing diverse, thoughtful, international content that spans genres and subject areas. For Maron, keeping the world big seems to be about keeping an open mind, staying connected to and challenged by culture, and to some extent, engaging with diverse and even opposite points of view, narratives, and ways of being.
I’m inclined to have a similar view when it comes to keeping the world big. I’d simply add that part of keeping one’s personal world big means actively cultivating spaciousness and expansiveness of heart, mind, and soul. Whether that means lingering in the pause between each breath a bit longer, waiting a bit longer to jump to conclusions, listening 1% more than usual, casting one’s gaze a bit wider when scanning the horizon, or actively remaining or re-opening to possibilities of different sorts. Keeping the world big means being willing to revisit core assumptions, habits of mind, ways of being, identity anchors, and patterns of all kinds. It means being willing to take a hard look at suffering, at pain, at fear, at the stuff that pushes us towards seeking shelter in the smallness that we think might keep us safe from the radically vast wilderness of existence.
I’m a fan of WTF and always grateful when I find something there that I reminds me of something that I believe and helps me think about it in new ways.