the matter and metaphysics of
ROBERT J. LEWIS
. . . the use of reason
is to justify the obscure desires
that move our conduct, impulses, passions, prejudices and follies.
a law of the universe. Small wants to get big. Big wants to get
bigger. Bigger wants to be mega-big. If all things small (a grain
of sand, cell life) could yearn, they would yearn to be big. Like
infinity itself, or the number of zeros in a bank account, there
are no limits to bigness; unless bigness, as a mirror image of
the expanding universe, of its own internal mandate is programmed
to collapse on itself and become smaller than small. The stuff
of the Big Bang, we are told.
towards big is coeval with the survival instinct. Almost without
exception bigness is being’s riposte to the menace of obliteration,
oblivion, nothingness. A cliff side – but not the pebble
-- will survive the erosions of wind and water. A big animal will
best a smaller one. Under a searing sun, a lake will survive puddles
stands for presence, perseverance, power. Bigness increases the
odds of duration. In the proximity of big, small is more fragile,
vulnerable. When small becomes smaller it can perish or disappear.
Towards the end of life, all things become smaller: ice-floes
melt away, plant life withers and shrivels, humans shrink between
two and three inches.
forms reach their zenith they expand, vaunt their strength, flash
feathers and colours, they swell their sexual parts to make themselves
noticed. In the cosmos, a black hole gets noticed when it explodes
into a galaxy.
begins as a single ephemeral cell equidistant between being and
nothingness. A human being is comprised of billions of cells that
can sustain the death of tens of thousands of its own on a daily
basis without consequence. From brawn to brain size, bigness is
natural selection’s favourite algorithm.
off small. Small things are swallowed into big. Big fish bottomfeed
off small fish. Small farms disappear into mega-farms. A big business
buys out, acquires through predatory mergers smaller ones, local
enterprises go national, and then international. When corporations
are sufficiently big (powerful), they are able to dictate to governments
tax policy specific to their advantage; they influence the dynamics
of a country’s engagement with foreign governments in the
drafting of trade agreements, strategic alliances; they manipulate
elections, consumer behaviour. These developments are the natural
outreach of bigness, and provide the reasons and rationale why
big wants to become bigger. Big is synonymous with power and control.
Unrestrained self-interest is the handmaiden of the big.
typically looks for ways and means to diversify in order to maintain
its bigness or become bigger. Specialty stores and websites now
offer a range of products outside their specialty: medical and
pharmaceutical sites offer travel packages, music videos, traffic
and weather reports, live streaming of news – whatever it
takes to pre-empt becoming smaller and/or get bigger.
world stage, a big nation, a large population is much more likely
to preserve than smaller ones. There was a Roman time when there
were more Jews in the world than Christians. Today there are two
billion Christians and only 15 million Jews. Big numbers count
big. There would not have been a Holocaust had there been two
billion Jews in the world. In yet another sad story in the storied
saga of manifest destiny, did elitism blind its devotees to the
imperatives of self-preservation?
is no finessing or downplaying the importance of being quantitatively
big, just as big’s self-esteem is appropriately proportionate
to its bigness.
loud and proud in the exponential language of ubiquity. Dandelion
spore in its extravagance is spread by the wind and takes root
everywhere. Fledgling, nascent ideas (divine right, democracy,
communism, the Ten Commandments) become big ideas by virtue of
the number of minds and territory under their persuasion.
resents big; small envies big; small’s confession is that
it wants to be big. In pursuit of big, the means -- the lies and
deceits -- justify the ends. On the silver screen, small looks
big when saloon doors are shrunk, and the small actor, a Dudley
Moore (5’2”), a Joe Pesci (5’3”), a Richard
Dreyfuss (5’4”), a Dustin Hoffman (5’5”)
is provided a raised platform to meet the taller actress. Fame
is big, and is why the small disproportionately seek fame and
fortune. People small in their field predictably exaggerate, inflate
their accomplishments, their wealth, their prowess.
people come to believe that bigness can be achieved through vicarious
association, and are always looking for ways to engineer meaningful
contact with big people. However more explicit in women, the groupie
instinct runs deep in both sexes. Magazine culture caters to the
unacknowledged or subconscious desire of small people wanting
to feel intimate with big (famous) people. When a small person
purchases People magazine, s/he is confessing her/his
unhappiness being small, and wishing to become big. Advertisers
pay big money to big people in order to sell their products to
small people who feel big wearing, driving or owning the product.
in manner and style, is charismatic and sexual. Women are attracted
to men who are accomplished (big) in their field of endeavour:
in the sports and corporate arena. Among smaller males, one of
the bitterest truths to swallow about bigness is that it takes
precedent over physical appearance and personhood. It is not uncommon
to observe young, attractive women in intimate relationships with
old and unattractive men: they find bigness (wealth, prestige,
is not a law unto itself. When big becomes its own terminus, when
it violates its limits it risks self-negating. Whatever its project,
big must learn to stay within itself as it pertains to fitness
and aptitude for a desired outcome. Every big must uncover its
particular law of bigness. Woe to the man whose goal or project
blinds him to his unfitness for it.
or country that becomes too big at the expense of the millions
of its small parts may be made small by these parts joining together
to become big enough to undo big’s disregard for small’s
role in big’s being big. In the 1980s, millions of small
Filipinos turned against their leader, Ferdinand Marcos, and made
him small. A small nation, blinded by ambition, yearning to become
big or bigger on the world stage, may unwisely set itself against
a bigger nation, and in the process, become smaller, or disappear
Hiroshima, bigness (an unholy alliance of big bomb and big ego)
no longer answers to the needs of a species that finds itself
teetering on the brink of an apocalypse of its own making. If
man is proving to be no match against his intractable nature,
what resources are at his disposal that would allow him to outwit,
outbig the big? What conjunction of events will compel him to
designate reason and Being above the bigness that derives from
the mechanical and biological?
truly big, achieves grandeur and its distinctly human aspect in
the play of freedom. Big evolves, grounds itself philosophically
(ontologically) by turning its first principles and assumptions
about the world into questions. Such an undertaking is tantamount
to a revolt against the conventional modalities of bigness.
of bigness is to free itself from its worst impulses and the threat
of self-obliteration in whose aftermath awaits the reversion to
the bigness that reigned before the advent of Being and freedom
(before self-consciousness), a bigness that was inseparable from
into unconcealment and then integrating the strictly human dimensions
of bigness into the productive life of the species is not just
a big deal -- it is the biggest deal. Man is still playing with
the same cards he was dealt when he took his first human steps,
but now the game is called Either/Or – winner take all,
loser lose all; and we are all players on the biggest stage where
there is ground zero cold comfort to be had in the Camille Paglia
utterance “Nuclear war would just be a spark in the grandeur