We tend to think that we live on a large world of billions of people, but in reality, we tend to live in a variety of small worlds, small worlds that tend to be connected in strange ways to a lot of other small worlds, but small worlds nonetheless. We are creatures of limited attention, limited span of activity, limited awareness, and so on. When we are a part of a large group of people, we tend to focus on those aspects of that large group that are of immediate interest to us. The end result is that we and other people end up being part of small worlds, and what happens in life is that we move from one small world to another.
One of the most notable aspects of life is that we try to find niches in which we can exist and prosper, and it so happens that all of those niches end up being small worlds. For example, I worked for several years as a modular plans examiner, and found myself in a very small world where I interacted with modular builders, mostly in Southwestern Georgia, engineers, state governments, building inspectors, and the like. We can be in large stadiums, but we are focusing on the events on the field as well as within our small section of the stadium or wherever we happen to be. As human beings, we tend to compartmentalize, to make our world smaller to be easier to understand, and part of this involves the worlds where we happen to interact.
I was reminded of the small worlds that we happen to be a part of when I was interacting with some people about the drama that was going on within a small world that I observe but do not participate in. There are some people who cause drama, some people who respond to drama, and some people who try to remain above it all. Whatever response we choose, it matters to us because it happens in our world and thus becomes far larger in importance because of that. Things that appear to be of catastrophic importance in a small world do not always receive the attention that they deserve because the implications for other worlds are not always readily evident.
We seem to be surprised, though, by the fact that we are in small worlds. When we find ourselves rising in the world, we think that our world becomes bigger, but it doesn’t. If we move from a local office to a headquarters office, we forget that we are still involved in small office politics, even if at a higher level. The power and status of people in small worlds may differ from the small world of a downstairs servant’s quarters and the small world of an upstairs world of privileged elites and their families and friends, but both worlds are small worlds all the same, involved in individual relationships. It is worth pondering why this is so and what it means for how we approach life and what goes on to us and those people we associate with.