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At the Movies: Tiny World

Image: Stephanie LeBlanc

As a bored child in the summer, waiting for my cousins to come to my grandparent’s farm, I watched ants.

My grandparents had massive, mature maple trees that bordered the front lawn of their farmhouse, and underneath their canopy, whole kingdoms of insects existed, mostly unnoticed most of the time. 

With nothing else to do, I might follow an ant through the grass, across the dirt where the lawn was rubbed away underneath the wooden bench tree swing, up the exposed roots, and into the grooves of a maple’s bark, where the ant would pick up the trail some other ant planted to guide his fellow sojourners to whatever deliciousness he’d discovered.

And that’s where I’d lose him. I was less than four feet tall at the time, unable to climb the expansive trunk. Once he reached above my line of sight, he disappeared, leaving me looking up into 100,000 leaves and a dynamic, hidden, unimaginable world.

Tiny World

Unimaginable and hidden, that is, until I started watching Tiny World on AppleTV. 

Tiny World was released in 2020 as a two-season-long documentary with 12 episodes, narrated by Paul Rudd. Each episode explores the meek and miniature creatures that scurry underneath the feet of giants. Overlooked and maybe even misunderstood, the smallest of the small get their turn in the spotlight of the finest, high-tech video lenses in each episode, highlighting different ecosystems around the globe.

From the savannas of Africa to the jungles of South America and beyond, Tiny World will show you a side of the animal kingdom you’ve never seen before.

Finding the Love: Faithifying Your Viewing

Most of my time is spent within a rather small network of immediate family, friends, my church community, and work colleagues. I’m probably in conversation with a couple dozen people each week and mingling with a couple hundred more. In my tribe, my life’s work of loving my neighbor, caring for my children, preparing meals for my family, and tending to the needs of my vocation feel large and necessary.

But then there are the occasions when I step out onto the sidewalk of a city block and stand in the middle of millions of people, all swarming and scurrying. We are all following the call of some other human, to find a tasty morsel, maybe, climbing into the revolving doors of skyscrapers to rise up in elevators out of view, off to do something incredibly important with our lives.

In those moments, the largeness and complexity of our global system overwhelms me. Everyone is off doing incredibly important things with their lives, and I am over here, an anonymous other, waiting to cross the street to buy a sub sandwich.

Sometimes I feel so small.

Last night, I walked down to my neighbor’s home to check on their two dogs. There was no moonglow, not a cloud in sight to reflect the city’s lights, and so the sky showed off the distant stars, millions of light years away from here. I wondered about how I could matter at all in the grand scheme of things, matter, when the whole universe has already been unfolding for billions of years, and I am just a breath, carried on the breeze down the hill to greet a couple of fluffy puppies with some tasty treats.

Sometimes I feel so small.

But small does not mean insignificant.

“Consider the ravens: They do not sow or reap, they have no storeroom or barn; yet God feeds them. And how much more valuable you are than birds!” Jesus told his disciples (Luke 12:24 NIV).

As I watch the elephant shrew charge across the screen at 30 km per hour, shimmying underneath the feet of giants, I remember how God gave them speed three times faster to scale than cheetahs.

“Consider how the wild flowers grow,” Jesus continued. “They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you, not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today, and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, how much more will he clothe you—you of little faith!” (Luke 12:27-28 NIV).

As I watch the dwarf mongoose make its home in abandoned termite castles, as I watch a hornbill keep a lookout for danger while the team of 20 mongoose hunt, as I watch the acacia ants attack a giraffe to protect their host tree, I remember that God gave even the least of these a community of symbiotic relationships to weather the tiny world they occupy, together.

“Do not be afraid, little flock,” Jesus told his disciples, “for your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom.”

You may be small in this great big world, but God in his abundance has given you this space, these people, this community, this value, this purpose, this moment. Do not be afraid. The kingdom is yours.

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