“My Small Life.”

Patrick Hanlon
3 min readMar 12, 2022

Several years ago we were in Paris somewhere where near the department stores, holding hands and angling off into neighborhoods unknown when we came upon a small square that dated back to before the Napoleons. The surrounding streets flowed decisively toward the square, recognizing that the town square was a destination and an attraction, before it was subsumed by Paris sprawl. An ancient church was posted among the cobblestones like a sentinel and since we like to go inside churches, we walked up the threshold.

A small saint inside a small church in Paris teaches the true meaning of “I am humbled.”

The church interior was quiet and solemn in the way that churches can be. Sunlight tried to slash through the windows but even the bright blue Spring morning outside could not beat through the blackened stained glass. The side altars, hollows and crypts remained sinister, creepy. The air smelled of incense aged by generations of farting priests, kneeling altar boys and sweating church. There was dust. I stood in front of a dark column whose architectural lines vaulted into the arched dome above. The side of the column was decorated with an adoring smiling cherub and a plaque trimmed in gold. The church was named for a St Teresa and on the plaque was a message written in St Teresa’s own words. Her message was in French, but pinned next to the plaque was a piece of paper with a typed English translation. The paper was yellowed and curled and protected by the kind of modern plastic you find in a 3-ringed notebook. The typewriter keys had been punched hard and the periods looked like small explosions on the paper. St Teresa wrote of several things but what struck me was a combination of three words. St Teresa referred to “my small life.” I was struck by the humility of a person who by virtue of her sainthood was, in fact, presented to the world as larger than life. Fade to black. We live today in a world of egocentric selfie-driven first-personism. We focus on scaling up, rushing to the IPO, being impact driven, downing power drinks, eating power bars, making power points, crushing it, flying to Bali, seeing the last white Rhino, boarding in Cabo, assessing and documenting the bigness of our lives, screening back the large spotlight that we intentionally shine on ourselves, with the phrase, “I am humbled.” The naked fact that we are all sands on the beach. We are infinitely small, standing together on a dark grain of sand in the swirling universe and we make ourselves smaller yet for the…

Patrick Hanlon

Author of “Primal Branding,” “The Social Code,” writer on Forbes, FastCo, Inc., East Hampton Star. Founder primalbranding.co