I just finished screening Small Is Beautiful. The documentary most certainly lives up to its name, but not in an idealized or trite-and-tidy way. The film is made by, and features, refreshingly honest and wonderfully courageous humans.
Some small, and selfish, ways the work blesses me, personally:
1) It made me think of the first time Nikki and Mitchell walked by my house that summer (2012). I was hot, overwhelmed, and most likely feigned more enthusiasm than I felt. But we chatted and now I have the pleasure of feeling like I had a small part in encouraging their beautiful build.
2) I smiled to see Proper Eats, remembering when I first moved to St Johns and the market had just opened which I took as a major indicator that I was living in the right neighborhood… the neighborhood Nikki and Mitchell would later find me in.
3) It was great to see Green Anchors and flash back to meeting Mark Fisher one day at Anna Bannanas just after he leased the land for the business. I was soooo excited for him and the project, and am absolutely thrilled to see what the property has become.
4) This documentary, and all the people in and of it, remind me that every person makes a difference – very, very literally. Further, the enormity of changes needed in the world do not fall on just one person’s shoulders. There are so, so many people doing important work everywhere. The film is an emphatic statement of this, and an enormous reminder of how to hope. To borrow from, and change, Bucky Fuller: Like us, hope is a verb.
5) The film also truly honors the complexity of the build; in each of the stories, the film treats the emotional labor happening because of, and alongside of, the building journey. This is one of the BEST features of the film… and reminds me there is so much of living in the doing, so much of the doing teaching us about the living, and so much of the teaching coming from listening; so much of listening occurring over vast stretches of time. This film allowed me to listen, three years later, to my own experiences in building.
6) One favorite moment: Karen said, “the lesson that the tiny house brings up for me is in unconscious assumptions.” Karen speaks about finding a girl sleeping in the bushes outside Karen’s place of business one morning. Karen remarks that she just said “good morning” and only later, when the girl asked if Karen was going to call the authorities, did Karen realize that the girl was doing anything “wrong.” Karen attributes this perspective-shift to living in her tiny house (called “Serenity”). I think she is right. In her words, “Suffering makes us more human.”
7) To those featured, Karen, Nikki & Mitchell, and Ben, thank you for your courageous honesty. It was so important for you all to be vulnerable enough to share your difficulties, to show how the build is inevitably about more than just constructing a tiny house.
The build, and the life, fundamentally change people (it did me). This very fact is what makes the movement so radical. And the film so beautiful.
In Ben’s words: “This house is not so much a way to escape as a way to take root.”
What an incredible blessing to be a part of this, and an even bigger blessing to watch the film from the comfort of my bed, rooted cozily in the tiny house that a community and I built – very literally from inside the house that built me.