I briefly worked with an editor who used to say, "God is in the details," which was, I thought at the time, Henry James. (Oops, it turns out it's Ludwig Mies van der
Rohe who said it. Never mind, I'm sure Henry James said something equally significant-seeming.)
Anyway, I pretty much thought it was true, at least sometimes, at least sort of. Now, however, I've morphed from that into fervent and total belief of the "Holy crap, changing one small
seemingly insignificant and unrelated things makes a massive difference
in everything around you" sort.
All this is apropos chatting with a dad at after school pick up time. Their family, he was telling me, had just moved to a larger apartment, which is reportedly
excellent, with one unexpected advantage. The child—an eight-year-old boy—has his own, much bigger,
room now. They moved all his stuff into his new room, and arranged everything as it seemed to make the most sense, part of which has made his bookshelf suddenly near the bed. And voila—just like that, he has become a
This is a kid who is heavily heavily into Pokemon. Also video games, DS games, etc. He also has some learning and developmental issues. He just didn't seem like he was going to be a big reader, it hadn't presents itself yet, at any rate. But somehow now that when he is lying on his bed he has books close enough to
him to reach out and touch, he does. He picks them up and reads. A lot.
I find this both exciting and perplexing. I spend about 80% of my life writing
things off or talking things down when I can't quite manage to make them exactly as I want or think they should be: "Oh, that's not a big deal, why
should that matter, what's the big difference?" But with something like
this, I am reminded that everything makes a difference.
It makes me think, too, of the cavalier attitude I have about
dismissing various anthologies and other books. If the kids really want
to find poetry, they will, I've said. But what about the kids who don't
know they really want to read? What about putting something near enough
someone that they might find it? It seems eminently worth it.
So what does it all mean? Propinquity trumps all? Feng shui will save the world? We're lazy enough to do ourselves a good turn once in a while? Put bad things very high and out of reach? I don't know. But I found this whole situation oddly comforting. Here's hoping I can pass that on.