by L. G. William Chapman, B.A., LL.B.

I am currently reading a History of England (one of the many books on the subject). The author regularly has rather scathing comments on the Lords and Ladies about whom he writes; though in fairness he can at times be equally generous towards them whom he considers the mental giants of the era. In one instance, for example, he applauded the capacity of one of the leaders of the time for being able quietly to survey the broad political and military landscape, then cleverly and unflappably to draw conclusions about the action to be taken. The author distinguished this gentleman by saying that he was able to see the big picture (which I take to be a combination of wit, wisdom and most especially foresight). For someone like myself to hear this sort of thing is withering to say the very least. I am a confessed obsessive when it comes to detail; and an admitted nincompoop when it comes to seeing beyond the end of my nose, much less the front sight of a gun.

Likely it stands to reason that, for those in public office (or who are in charge of large corporations), the macro is to be preferred to the micro. The only thing that deters me in this line of thinking is momentary and hesitating reflection upon the unhappy fate of some of those large corporations, as compared to the present status of my own little (but thankfully viable) operation. While it is easy to be scornful of small, main street business, I am beginning to adjust to a more kindly view (another of those delightful products of aging no doubt). Only this past weekend, for example, we chanced to visit a store in nearby Carleton Place which turned out to be a complete surprise (even though I am embarrassed to own that I had known of its existence for the past three decades). First, it was housed in an historical (and beautifully maintained) large stone building (the same one which the business had employed for the past century I would imagine, and still conveniently located adjacent to the railway tracks which carve through the Town); and second, it carried a wide variety of products which, while not entirely of platinum quality, were certainly up to the gold standard (especially as compared to the urban box stores). Quite frankly (and with a sense of apology), as much as I am wont to flatter myself upon the virtues of my own small business, my innate prejudice against rural activity generally was such that I hadn’t expected to encounter such a trove of goodies as we there discovered. But I couldn’t have been more mistaken! In an instant my confidence in the worth of local business was revived! My immediate instinct was to share the intelligence with my closest friends (and my mother, of course – the inveterate shopper that she is).

Having been at Bergdorf Goodmans last Easter in New York City, the memory of its incredible collection of retail goods was yet fresh in my mind. I am, however, as well reminded that many of the articles were boldly touted as being the product of some rural artisan’s business from a small community. This isn’t the first time I have encountered a potpourri of rural-based creme de la creme at Bergdorf’s. Indeed it is invariably these tiny assemblies of woodsy items which most attract my attention.

Anyway, I’m getting lost in all this! The point I am attempting to make is that one shouldn’t be either overwhelmed or diminished by either the big picture or the people who are able to see it. There’s clearly room in this panorama for both the big picture and the smaller details. I suppose it is all part and parcel of understanding oneself to accept that the public or larger platforms are not for everyone. Now that I think of it, I recall that I have several Clients who have expressed to me their aversion for the larger urban law firms, and their distinct preference for the rural practitioner. Of course I am not so vain as to think that my professional skills can begin to compete with those seasoned lawyers practicing in the more perplexing areas of law; but, again, the point is that there is a spectrum in which even the most sophisticated Client may usefully seek the advice of a country lawyer.

Oddly enough it may just be that the appreciation of these seemingly competing and yet complementary forces is in itself seeing the big picture. To get back to the History of England, for example, it is a constant theme in the account that the denizens of London have to deal with the country clergy and the country gentlemen, a thread which everyone knows to exist who has ever read Country Life magazine. While it doesn’t always make for a nice balance, there is nonetheless a thrust to both elements. And speaking of balance, eventually one has to come down on one side or another. For my part, I’ll settle for the rural landscape, the minutiae of the bucolic scenery. In truth, I never was much for the big picture.