Column Date 2007-07-29

Is bigger actually better?

America is addicted to “big”.

Our love of “big” is why we rush like lemmings to see the world’s biggest building, the world’s biggest tree, the world’s biggest omelet pan, the world’s biggest skateboard, etc. Not to mention the world’s biggest airplane – the new French Super-Jumbo jet which starts flying just as soon as they get the world’s biggest electrical system working properly.

Well, so far as I’m concerned, bigger is not better. There’s a lot less to “big” than meets the eye:

Bigger bananas don’t taste any better.

Bigger cars don’t handle any better (or get better gas mileage).

Bigger laptop computers weigh more than you really want to lug around, and aren’t always faster.

Bigger buildings don’t necessarily look classier, or give you better office space.

Bigger farms, as agribusiness demands, don’t grow better food. (Cheaper, maybe. But healthier or better tasting? No way.)

Bigger portions on your plate only make your stomach bigger (and if you think an enormous stomach is healthy or macho or sexy, you can stop reading right here).

As for bigger government...need I say more?

I think we should all take a deep breath and forget about “big.” (The world’s biggest ball of twine is, after all, just a really big ball of twine.)

We should all take a look at “small” – a notion that is probably hiding in our DNA someplace, quietly waiting to be discovered.

“Small” has a lot to offer:

Small cell phones fit in your pocket (and also play movies and take photos).

Small bags fit onto airplanes and walk safely off the plane with you.

Small homes cost less to heat, less to cool, and come with smaller tax bills.

Small companies let the folks who work there get to know each other – and work better together.

Small portions of dessert can lead to smaller doses of cholesterol-lowering drugs.

And small apartments force you to buy less stuff to fill them.

Now, as long as we’re involved with “small,” let me mention “small’s” companion – “modesty,” something rarely seen these days in our society.

For those of you who have never run into “modesty,” here’s what it’s like:

I once worked with a lovely, elderly man name Mike Brodowski.

We worked together in the back room of a magic store in New York City. We sliced up magnets and glued them onto playing cards, we put false bottoms on boxes, and we packaged powder which made flames shoot out of your magic wand.

One day, I asked Mike to tell me something about his life outside of work, and he said: “I am the 2nd best Polish violinist in Newark.”

In our over-hyped, “We’re #1” world, this was an astonishing statement. But, oh, so healthy. And in touch with reality.

So if you can’t get your mind around “small,” I suggest you take a look at “modesty”.

It makes you feel a lot better than “big”. And, somehow, it’s a lot more grown up.

©2007 Peter Tannen