This Book Made Me a More Grateful Person
Love in Small Letters by Francesc Miralles
Weltschmerz refers to a feeling of melancholy, a sense of weariness afflicted upon people who have no existential problems in life. How many times have you felt a sense of dread, despite having all the comforts one may need?
Being thankful for what we have and disallowing our mind to be concentrated with the thoughts of our needs and wants are key to a fulfilled life. This is easier said than done.
Francesc Miralles, of Ikigai fame, in his parable Love in Small Letters talks about how a small act of kindness can give rise to an massive chain of karma, which will finally leave you better off than before. The book revolves around Samuel, a lonely linguistic teacher, whose tiny act of giving milk to a cat on the New Year Eve transforms his life in ways he had never imagined.
While, I will refrain from spoiling the highly entertaining story of the book; Here are my insights and commentary on the book, “Love in Small Letters” by Francesc Miralles.
You can be happy right here, right now! Don’t miss out on the small pleasures of life, while you go after the big ones. Enjoy the beauty around you! Enjoy the small things! Don’t postpone life until you win the lottery or retire. Do the fun things now with what you have. Live each day fully as if it were your last! Start by being happy now. Smile as much as you can - even if you are not in the mood, because by smiling you're sending positive signals to your brain. Fun and humor are essential for a good, long life, job satisfaction, personal fulfillment, personal relationships, and life balance. So laugh lots and have lots of fun!
“Enjoy the little things, for one day you may look back and realize they were the big things.” -Kurt Vonnegut Jr.
From time of writing this post, in a few days the year 2022 will end and that of 2023 will begin. This is a time when most of celebrate, but also feel some sort of dread. We feel that another year has passed by, but we have remained in the same place. Maybe we feel that time is slipping from our hands or we find ourselves feeling inferior to others who had a more productive year.
In times such as these we must remember, years are mothing but human inventions for selling calendars. After all, we’re the ones who’ve arbitrarily decided when the years, months, and even hours start. We shape the world in our own measure, and that soothes us. Under the apparent chaos, maybe there really is order in the universe. However, it certainly won’t be our order. So why dread over the passing of time?
“Every moment you spend in your past is a moment you steal from your present and future.” - Marc Reklau
Atoms are like letters. The same ones that make up the Songs of Kabir or the Canticles from the Bible are also used for articles in gossip magazines and ads for hair lotions.
The same blocks of stone can be used by Gaudí to build the Sagrada Familia or by someone else to put up the walls of Auschwitz.
So when we talk about building blocks, letters, or atoms, what matters is who arranges them and what use is made of them. In other words, what we are isn’t important. What we do with what we are is important. Hours, days, even years are worthless unless you know what to do with them.
Titus’s maxim: the opposite is best. Whenever you’re angry with someone, apply this maxim. It means doing the exact opposite of what your body’s telling you to do.
In the book, Samuel at the dinner with his sister normally would have sat down at the table and eaten in silence, watching the news. Titus’s maxim prompted him to try to do the opposite.
He praised every dish his sister served, took an interest in what was going on in their lives, and told them a couple of anecdotes to liven up the atmosphere.
While the sister and her husband were slow to accept the change, soon enough they joined in. This small change culminated in Samuel meeting the woman of his life: a girl from the sisters ballet class many years ago.
If it can work for him, why not for rest of us?
Wisdom from The Buddha
Pain is inevitable
but suffering is optional.
He who doesn’t know what to attend to
and what not to heed
attends to the unimportant
and ignores the essential.
Thousands of candles can be lit by just one candle, and the life of that candle will not be shorter because of it. Happiness is never diminished by being shared.
Let us be thankful, for if we have not learned a lot today,
we have at least learned a little; and if we have not learned a little,
we have at least not fallen ill; and if we have fallen ill,
we have at least not died, and for this we are thankful.
Richard Weisman, a psychologist, through a newspaper ad invited a buch of people who though they were quite lucky or unlucky for an experiment.
He gave both lucky and unlucky people a newspaper, and asked them to look through it and tell him how many photographs were inside.
On average, the unlucky people took about two minutes to count the photographs whereas the lucky people took just seconds. Why? Because the second page of the newspaper contained the message “Stop counting — There are 43 photographs in this newspaper.”
This message took up half of the page and was written in type that was over two inches high. It was staring everyone straight in the face, but the unlucky people tended to miss it and the lucky people tended to spot it.
Just for fun, he placed a second large message half way through the newspaper. This one announced: “Stop counting, tell the experimenter you have seen this and win $250.” Again, the unlucky people missed the opportunity because they were still too busy looking for photographs.
This experiment was repeated in many places over a period of ten years and every time the result was the same. It was proven that unlucky people are generally much more tense and anxious than lucky people, and research has shown that anxiety disrupts people’s ability to notice the unexpected. They go to parties intent on finding their perfect partner and so miss opportunities to make good friends. They look through newspapers determined to find certain type of job advertisements and as a result miss other types of jobs. Lucky people are more relaxed and open, and therefore see what is there rather than just what they are looking for.
This means, how strange it may sound, that being lucky is not a matter of chance but of attitude, attitude which we can change.
Nasiruddin(a folk character) came to a small village where they mistook him for a famous wise man. He didn’t want to disappoint the people who’d gathered in the square, so he opened up his arms and said, “I imagine that, since you’re here, you know what I’m going to tell you.”
The people said, “No, what do you have to tell us? We don’t know. Tell us, please”
Nasiruddin replied, “If you’ve come here without knowing what I want to say, then you’re not ready to hear it.”
Then he stood up and walked away. The crowd was shocked by his abrupt departure. They were about to write him off as a madman when someone said, “How clever he is! He’s totally right. How could we dare to come here without knowing what we were coming to hear? How stupid we’ve been. Now we’ve wasted a wonderful opportunity. How brilliant he is! How wise he is! Let us ask this man to come and speak to us a second time.”
Some of the villagers went to find him and begged him to come back, saying that his knowledge was too vast for a single lecture. After all their pleading, Nasiruddin went back to the same square. Now the crowd was twice its previous size. Once again he said, “I imagine that you know what I’m going to tell you.”
Having learned their lesson, the people nodded and someone spoke up. “Of course we know. That is why we have come.”
On hearing this, Nasiruddin looked down and said, “Well, since you know what I have to say to you, there is no need to repeat it.”
He left the square and walked away. The people were dumbfounded. Then one fanatic started to shout, “Brilliant! Marvelous! We want him to give us more of his wisdom!”
A delegation of village notables went to find him and begged him on their knees to come back and give a third and final lecture. They beseeched him so persistently that he agreed to come back for the last time. When he reached the square he was greeted by roars of a veritable multitude. Once again, he said, “I imagine that you know what I’m going to tell you.”
This time the people had come to an agreement and had nominated the head man of the village to speak for them. The head man said, “Some do and some don’t.”
The crowd fell silent and everyone looked at Nasiruddin, who concluded, “Then those who know should enlighten those who don’t.”
In the end, the core message of “Love in Small Letters” can be summarized by a single quote by Oscar Wilde.
The smallest act of kindness is worth more than the grandest intention.
Overtime it will be the deeds we did that will count, not the intentions we had. Be thankful for what you have and do good whenever possible; one day or the other the small flutter of kindness will give rise to a butterfly effect which will take you off your boots and to a place of happiness; because after all love and happiness are hidden in the smallest places.
PS: I have been told that this book is now available as Love in Lowercase.