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Some things are intended to be consumed in small quantities. Fine wine and coffee for example. It the same with music, rich food, and pretty well anything that would once have been seen as ‘luxury’, or appreciated for its taste, or its rareity.

But we live in a time of plenty where everything is commercialised, super-sized or multi-packed. Excess is commonplace and more-than-we-need is the norm. ‘Small’ is disappearing from many price lists, replaced by strange affectations that confuse us about what we are actually buying; ‘regular’ means what the vendor wants it to mean, and ‘large’ is concealed in ‘family pack’ or the patronising ‘Man-size’.

Over-consume something and you become de-sensitized the the pleasure. Chugging down half a litre of cappucino is a weird exercise which has nothing to do with the origins of the drink, and a single ‘medium’ glass of wine at my local pub puts you over the limit for driving, and forces you to appreciate the quantity, not the quality (just as well in most pubs though).

It’s not just with things we eat and drink. Think of muzak; normally you might love Brahms or Adele, but when one of your favourite tune is mainlined into you without your consent, if you notice it at all you hear it through gritted teeth.

The phrase “Small is Beautiful” was popularised by Schumacker 40 years ago. In his prophetic book on economics. Economics is about people and their behaviour, and in his truer-than-ever title he predicted that we would lose touch and were becoming “estranged from reality”. 

Has ‘plenty’ become the metric by which we judge value?  Are we being conditioned to comprehend our experience only through ‘more’, ‘bigger’ and ‘better’?

All is not lost, by making a conscious choice you can re-learn an appreciation of small.


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