In Chuck Palahniuk’s Lullaby, journalist Carl Streator is just getting by. He copes with the stress of his job. He copes with his finances. He copes with the accidental death of his wife and his child, whom he killed with a culling spell. He copes with his mission to find and destroy every copy of the spell. He copes with the fact that he can’t stop thinking about it.
Most of us feel the need to cope, to escape our big picture. Work is stressful. Money is tight. Cholesterol is too high. Deadlines are approaching. There’s an illness in the family. There’s a fire. Or a flood. The electricity has just been shut off. We agonize over the minutia of our schedules, the humdrum routines that give structure to our daily lives. Everything is spiraling out of control.
“The trick to forgetting the big picture,” Streator says, “is to look at everything close up.”
So we bury ourselves in the latest game to top the iTunes charts. We throw ourselves into the dramas of the latest group of Housewives. We obsess about sports. We count calories. We distract ourselves.
But if we change our perspective a bit, looking at everything close up can be an exercise in meditation and mindfulness, instead of a distraction. Looking at everything close up can be a powerful way to see the big picture. We come to understand that our big pictures -- the bills, the jobs, the finances -- are really only tiny details in our collective Big Picture. Close up we see things that are quintessentially human, actions that tie us to generations of men and women through millennia. We knead and bake bread, just like we have for thousands of years. We steep tea. We fall in love. We worry about our children. We sow seeds and pull weeds. The tiniest details of our lives and our routines and our habits bind us to an innumerable host of people who worry just like us. These ubiquitous activities place us in the framework of a shared humanity.
Perhaps if we look at these daily responsibilities close up, if we squint, if we work really hard, we can avoid many of our daily stressors.
So go ahead. Try. Look at everything close up.