Repetition, alliteration, the rule of 3, rhetorical questions, comparatives, superlatives, imperatives, celebrity endorsement, scientific language, facts, opinions.
I am teaching advertising techniques to my year 12’s, all of us students of persuasion. The terms annoy them, but they get what’s behind them: how to attract attention, be eye-catching, sound better than the competition, offer something people want, at the right price. New! Improved! Don’t miss out!
We are all students of persuasion, not just in the classroom.
Have something to offer, be worth it, choose well, be chosen, be noticed, don’t miss out.
Persuade others (and your own self) of the validity of your career choice, your parenting techniques, your religious beliefs… of how you spend your free time, and your money, of what you read.
Be persuaded – that this is how to live, parent, love, practice faith, organise your day, spend your money, use your gifts, climb the ladder or give yourself away. It’s exhausting.
“Tell me, what it is you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?” Mary Oliver asks us, and I panic.
I panic and I listen to all the voices, to the imperatives from the pulpit and on the internet and from my great-aunt.
I can’t answer Mary Oliver’s vital question when being shouted at, seduced or rally-called. I don’t do well in environments that praise the Big, the Mega, the Best. I don’t do well when I strive for Important, or measure myself up against it.
This is partly to do with my personality, and we are all different. I have learnt to value ‘small’ in the same way I have learnt to value slow, quiet and gentle. There is something in the word small that makes me feel deeply at home. It is an authentic, honest place where I don’t strive to be someone else. It’s like the E.E.Cummings quote that “It takes courage to grow up and become who you really are.” For me, that person is small (it’s wee frizz).
You may find who you really are represented in another word, but I think there are small things worth valuing for all of us – things we sometimes miss when we’re looking for Big. There are small places that we don’t choose, that turn out to have value in our journey… and there are small places some people do choose that are totally counter to our culture of Big Things, of growth and status and drive.
I thought about doing a Series around this, and then I wondered, is it even possible to have a Blog Series about ‘small things’ ? Aren’t the most valuable small things often hidden, private, offline?
I think a lot of them are.
They are the stories told around kitchen tables, not on Facebook. They are private text messages. They are emails prefaced with ‘this is not for sharing’. They are treasured photographs in shoeboxes under the bed.
They are time spent with the broken, the brave, the dying: time we need to debrief on our own or with a trusted friend. They are glasses raised in living rooms, not stats booming on our blogs.
Much of valuing small, for me, is about valuing life away from this laptop screen.
But I come here, sometimes, to write and I come to the internet, sometimes, to read. And this year, when I do that, I want to explore ‘small things’ and to make space for the ordinary and the unlikely and the upside down – just the stories we can share.
[Read the series so far here]