At some stage, most of us consider the big question: “What is the meaning of my life?” Few of us ask and answer the more immediate question: “What is the meaning of my day?”
I recently watched a beautiful movie that addressed this very question, examining the meaning of small moments and how they impact our lives.
At first glance, “The Map of Tiny Perfect Things” is a simple romantic drama. It begins as a formulaic time-loop movie, with the main character perpetually stuck in the same day (think “Groundhog Day” or “Edge of Tomorrow”). But the story-line soon got me hooked. The main character, Mark, has the ability to alter his daily choices, but everyone else is stuck on repeat. There is no reason for this eternal cycle. Naturally, Mark begins to ask the question, “why me?”
This got me thinking. If we woke up and repeated the same day, again and again, how would we make sense of this? What would we pay attention to? What would we notice?
Humans are meaning-oriented creatures. No one tells Mark to attribute meaning to his time-loop. It’s just what we do. At first, Mark tries to enjoy himself – there are no long-term consequences to his actions. Then he decides to help people, searching for a lost dog and giving away a winning lottery ticket. But again, these good deeds have no long-term benefits because every day resets. Eventually, running out of ways to discover meaning, Mark finds a creative way to live out his perpetually recurring day. Teaming up with Margaret (another time-looper) he starts to look for every “tiny perfect moment.”
There are many sub-plots throughout the movie, including Mark’s romantic relationship with Margaret, and Margaret’s complex relationship with her mother, but the key idea is that every day contains tiny perfect moments – beautiful events, spiritual happenings, moments of joy and wonder.
The Meaning Of Moments
Little moments, if we are observant, contain hidden meaning. Most of the time, we rush past such moments and ignore their significance. But if we pay attention, keeping our eyes open and schedules unhurried, we can discover something truly rich and wonderful.
There is something lovely about the “perfect moments” captured in this movie. They are ordinary. They are commonplace. Such moments could happen anytime if we paid attention. There is an elderly couple who spontaneously dance together on a patio. An eagle dives into a lake to snatch a fish. A commercial hotel cleaner walks past a piano and sits to play a sonata, assuming no-one is watching. These “perfect moments” are not so different to the one’s that animate my own life. I have often been awestruck by a perfect sunrise, a hearty meal with friends, or the fresh scent of gum-leaves following rain. There’s the feeling of getting lost in a book, or relaxing in a hot bath, or completing a bike ride with friends.
Small moments are not insignificant moments. They can energise our day.
What if we, like Mark and Margaret, could discover the tiny perfect moments as they appear? What if we could make space and pay attention to the beautiful, colourful and coincidental events that reveal themselves in secret. These small but significant moments are magical, even spiritual. By remaining expectant and open, such moments can guide our path, enrich our lives, and help us enter a greater story.
Looking For Tiny Perfect Moments
Over the last few months, I have been seeking to pay more attention to the tiny perfect moments that pop up each day. This has been surprisingly hard to do and has required a change in mindset, in pace, and practice.
Firstly, there needs to be a change in mindset. I have come to realise that ordinary life can be spiritual if we look with spiritual eyes. This requires an expectant mind – one that is willing to notice the tiny perfect moments as they appear. Some might call these “aha” moments; a surprising conversation, a challenging line in a book, an awe-inspiring walk in nature, a thoughtful act by a friend, or the thankful realisation that we are alive and able to experience one more day. We can miss these moments if we fail to pay attention. But if we remain open to the unexpected, such moments do appear, and they are truly remarkable.
Secondly, to notice tiny perfect moments, we need to shift our pace. If our lifestyle is too fast, always on the go, we tend to miss our perfect moments. We are like a frantic driver, too distracted to notice the person broken down on the side of the road, and too busy to care. In the words of Dallas Willard, “Hurry is the great enemy of spiritual life in our day. You must ruthlessly eliminate hurry from your life.” We must slow down and make space to pay attention to the whisper of our soul. Put down your phone. Close your email inbox. Unplug from Netflix. And Instagram. And pay attention to the wonder that is all around you.
Finally, there are daily practices that attune our minds to seek out perfect moments. The way we start our day can shape our ability to notice.
For me, I am learning to begin my mornings with contemplative reflection. I write a thankfulness journal, jotting down three things that I am grateful for. This helps me to notice the beauty in seemingly ordinary events. I read a few verses of scripture and journal what I notice. I also close my eyes and bask in the presence of God, which is my way of meditating. This fifteen to twenty-minute routine is a way of priming my mind to pay attention to whatever may come next. My routine helps me to expect the unexpected.
Observing tiny perfect moments often begins with thankfulness. The practices that you adopt will no doubt differ from mine, but here is an example of what it might look like (from my thankfulness journal).
- “I am thankful for the sound of birds outside my window.”
- “I am thankful that it is nearly my son’s birthday.”
- “I am thankful for the meeting I had with Anna yesterday.”
- “I am thankful I get to exercise without a mask.”
- “I am thankful for the time I had watching a movie with friends last night.”
- “I am thankful that we finished our strategic plan.”
- “I am thankful I got to sleep in.”
None of these observations are ground-breaking, but they help me to slow down and appreciate the tiny perfect moments in each day.
Can You Find A Tiny Perfect Moment Today?
All of us are busy. We get stuck on autopilot. I still get caught in the hurry of life, rushing from one thing to the next – and paying attention to nothing. But take heart. Today is not yet over.
You and I may not discover every tiny perfect moment (well, not without a time-loop), but we can certainly pay attention to the very next moment that appears. One moment leads to another, and another. As we pay attention to such moments, our ability to live thankful, joy-filled lives increases. Ordinary becomes extra-ordinary. We can learn to take part in the wonder of the everyday.
Tiny perfect moments are everywhere. If we make space to slow down, we can discover great meaning in ordinary events. Could this be one of those moments? Stop and take a moment to think – what might it take for you to pay attention to a perfect moment today?