Yeah, I do. I have heard that. Is that really how the saying is most commonly-put? I wish you’ve put quotes around it, so I could have more confidence. Big note: I understand this is not your original saying. All my remarks are addressed to the saying, and perhaps to those who’d say it earnestly – not to the question-submitter.
That’s a crap saying, you. Trite. Banal. What’s the moral? Act? “Act! Act or all is lost! Do anything, but act! Act as if all depended on it: blindly! Rashly! Act if at all, or else you have done nothing! – ACT! – ACT! For your unexpressed, un-enacted intentions avail you nil and behoove you naught! ACT! ACT SMALL.”
That’s just kind of silly. But yes, I have definitely heard either a saying or several sayings to that exact effect. I’m sure the wording you give is a version I’ve heard, but I feel like it circulates in mildly-altered forms as well. As well, and no better.
This is not a popular saying. Not in my experience. Not frequently enough encountered to fix in form and in mind as cliché. Frankly, the saying doesn’t merit cliché status. There’s something there, you could might make something of!
But surely they could have put it better than that. Hell, I could have put it better. “The smallest deed is better than the greatest intentions”?
“Great intentions can be fit into the smallest of deeds.”
There. POW. Not the same moral, you’ll note! Mine is exhorting great intentions into not just any deeds, but even small deeds – yet deeds driven by great intentions. Yours makes as if to say “Act somehow! Act anyway, doesn’t matter!” As if “ANYTHING YOU COULD DO would be better than simply great intending.” NO. No it would not!
No. The smallest deed is not better than the greatest intention. For there is in this world swarming all around us constantly, a never-ending buzzing and buffeting storm and annoyance of small, vile deeds. Malice in a dozen, an hundred, a thousand cutting and poking and groping, pulling rips and stings! We bleed from innumerable wounds of “smallest deeds” – no. These are not better than greatest intentions, and it is very clear those are not the intentions from which they proceed. And continue to proceed, and keep coming – until now and then, once we’ve had enough bad muse, we suck up our blood back into us like Wolverine and, as all the tiny and deep gaping rents close over, we say: “SNIKT!”
And let them have it. With our greatest of intentions. Put into action.
It takes deliberation, you see. It takes even discretion. Above and into all it takes: direction. Aimed intent does not spray. It levels and steadies the finely-zeroed crosshairs, and ten shots, ten kills. Great.
Par for a well-corrected course.
Smallest deeds suck or rule entirely driving from the intentions (plus or minus interference from unassessed coincidental elements in play). The motives, the reasons which are each deed’s cause. Small deeds cannot be good or great unless these intentions are – except by the most hapless accident. If the intentions are great, fine. Greatest intentions are at least motivational practice in the right direction, and pent up within us growing more and more concentrated and pure are bound to overspill – if we keep aim on as desire grows. But to say smallest deeds no matter how intended are better than greatest intentions?
What a hapless thing to say. What a shocking confession of ethical and moral ineptitude. What a misfit sense of scale, scope, proportion and purpose are flaunted by the saying’s sawyer! As if we were all back in the 1800s, enrapt in raptures of defiance, enwrapped in flapping Romantic cloaks, towering tidily on sea swept cliff tops shaking our fists at oncoming black and billowing storms, inaudibly hoarsely booming into the gale: “The Deed is all! The Will is all! The Act is all!”
What a pose. It’s not evenenough to dignify as an “act.” That character displayed is cardboard. It’d be blown over by the freshest spring zephyr, let alone a good roaring Romantic storm.
The saying is nonsense. That smallest deed is not better, just by the fact of having been done. It’s not that you enact, but what. This smallest deed must be a better deed than inaction would have been, if it is to be called better. It must add value to the predicament. Otherwise it is not better. It is worse.
If the intentions are terrible, that smallest deed is liable to suck. No matter how small. It is liable to be deemed (by anyone with a deemed to deem with) a mistake. It was, and should not have been done.
No wonder it never became a cliché. Who in their right mind would wear that one out?