Nothing More Than Nothing

“Tell me the weight of a snowflake,” a robin asked a wild dove.

“Nothing more than nothing,” was the answer.

“In that case, I must tell you a marvellous story,” the robin said.

“I sat on the branch of a fir, close to the trunk, when it began to snow—not heavily, not in a raging blizzard—no, just like in a dream, without a sound and without any violence. Since I did not have anything better to do, I counted the snowflakes settling on the twigs and needles of my branch. Their number was exactly 3,741,952. When the 3,741,953rd dropped onto the branch, nothing more than nothing, as you say — the branch broke off.”

Having said that, the robin flew away.

The dove, since Noah’s time an authority on peace, thought about the story for a while, and finally, said to herself, “Perhaps there is only one person’s voice lacking for peace to come to the world.”

The message of this story is so relevant for us at this time in history.

I am awake, active, and aware – and so are you, choosing to read this Note when there are so many other possibilities clamouring for attention. We can all be forgiven for sometimes feeling overwhelmed and powerless against the enormity of the issues facing humanity and the world around us. It’s hard to find almost anything that doesn’t feel broken, for example, if we look at the news today.

All the things we could do differently beckon, all the causes begging for our attention. In the big universal stuff and the very personal: can one individual really have an effect on the world?

What possible difference could it make whether we use another – new – plastic bag for the kitchen waste, use paper towel to wipe up rather than reusable? Our small choices couldn’t begin to turn around the environmental crisis.

What difference does one more name on the petition, one more person joining in the march, really make when the following for a cause is already huge? And surely, if that many people don’t turn it around, what’s the point of one more.

Busy being busy, we indeed feel the pressures on our time driving our lives, like the tail wagging the dog. We may ask, does it really make a difference if I can only devote a few minutes each day to a spiritual practice, in meditation or reading or in reflection? Is there any point? Surely it’s better to wait until I’ve got more time, another time.

For me, I love “the snowflake story” for these powerful reminders:

Showing up, doing the right thing, making a choice for good, is never wasted. And we’ll never know whether our contribution is the one that tips the balance – nor does it matter, for each and every one contributes to the outcome. The first snowflake is as important as the 3,741, 953rd!

Change is often about lots and lots of small actions, taken without ceremony and without need for immediate result. Each choice, no matter what small a footprint it may feel, inside or outside, makes all the difference. One plastic bag not used, one more voice, a few minutes sat in gratitude, twenty minutes in meditation…

Whatever we do, all the minor or insignificant steps that we may seem to take in isolation, “nothing more than nothing”—this is all there is. And the cumulative, compounding effect of each choice and action is transformative.

No one is going to save the world, or make it a better place. We are, each and every one of us, one action at a time, again and again, gathering impact like snowflakes settling on the branch.


The snowflake story is from the closing chapter of Joseph Jaworski’s book Synchronicity -The Inner Path of Leadership


Melanie Kirkbride is co-founder of The Soft Road.  She frequently writes and speaks on topics of personal and cultural transformation to help people thrive in creative action.  To contact Melanie or to receive her Notes and Soft Road Essays, please click here