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What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us.

― Ralph Waldo Emerson


You have already established with your interpretations that these 18 words are packed with possibility; packed with promise.

With your interpretations, you took personal, spiritual, and philosophical perspectives to unpack the quote.  You expanded upon Emerson’s 18 words, spectacularly.

I, perhaps as a yang to your yin, will not expand, but contract.  For there is still a bit of mystery here for me.

I wonder about three of Emerson’s words in particular; three that we brush right by when going from behind us, to before us, to within us.

First: why “tiny matters?”

Why not “no match for?” as in “What lies behind us and what lies before us are no match for what lies within us.”

Wouldn’t that have been better?  Clearer?  We can overcome the past … we will prevail in the future … we have it all within us …

If Emerson’s 18 words, stripped down to their core, are really just about thinking positively … and having unwavering confidence a la we shall overcome … wouldn’t “no match for” have been better than “tiny matters?”

Of course, the answer is clearly no.  But why?

They’re not better because, in pondering Emerson’s exquisite choice of those two words, I think he was implying that there’s something more than self-confidence, self-trust and positive thinking in the mix.

Saying that our past experiences (what lies behind us) and future challenges (what lies before us) are tiny matters compared to what lies within us is not to say that we will be successful in our pursuits.

I don’t think Emerson is saying we will overcome.  I don’t think he is saying our success is a fait accompli.

I think he’s saying we have potential.

With his choice of tiny matters he’s cleverly giving the odds while implying that the matter of our success is yet an open question.

We do have it within us.  The odds are with us to overcome.  What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us.

But something is missing.  Which brings us to that third word that I wonder about.

Why “lies?”

So passive.  Steady state.  Not moving.

And then it hit me.

That’s what’s missing!

We need to act!

Emerson’s 18 words are a very sly call to action…

It’s a call to focus your attention inside, clarifying your values … discovering your interests … identifying your strengths … honing your skills …

Building your capability.

Raising the odds.  Sealing the deal.

What lies within you are formidable capabilities, but they are latent.

We need to act!

Past experiences and future challenges are no match for our capabilities if we develop and use them!

*     *     *     *     *

What lies within you is massive potential.  Realize it.

And then realize it!  Make it happen!

Convert possibility to reality.  Promise, to status.

That matters.

And that is most definitely not a tiny matter.

Nor a lie.

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