This is a blog post that has been ruminating within me for years, I remember first discovering or accepting the distinction while working at the Pentagon 16 years ago, and have been contemplating it since. I would love to have your feedback or thoughts about it.
It starts with the idea, or the essence of an idea, that simplicity is profound. Essentially, in Science, Mathematics, Philosophy, Religion or any Human related endeavor, there exists a simple truth that ultimately encases or governs how things work within it. For example, physicists have discovered four forces that govern the Universe and they continue to pursue (and believe) that these four forces will eventually be defined by a single force. Thus, the complexity of the universe ultimately will be described in one single and expectantly simple equation.
Taking this to a more philosophic bend, I have discovered that I am much more content and fulfilled when I eliminate most of the complexity (BS), anxiety, and distraction in my life by returning to a place of simplicity. I am aggressively working to de-clutter, downsize, and simplify every aspect of my life (spiritually, intellectually, emotionally, and physically). Contemplating this appeal is the essence of this blog topic.
Christ says “anyone who does not receive the Kingdom of heaven like a child will never enter it.”
Imagine our children (not my teenagers today), but an innocent baby or toddler. When you watch them, they are entirely caught in the moment and are present to exactly what they need or want that second. They see a ball, they grab it, play with it, chew it, throw it. They are happy and content in their very simple lives (as their needs are provided for). They aren’t worried about the future, or stressed about past failings, they are entirely present to themselves and the immediate world around them. Frankly, life is simple, and Christ asks us to see the world like this child.
However, this simplicity is complicit with naivety and lacks appreciation or awareness of the complex challenges they are about to face as the world comes upon them. When are they going to get their next bottle, skateboard, bike, or car. How can they get what they want, and what everyone else seems to have?
Complexity enters their life. They start to take on worry, stress, anxiety and WANT. Why am I not getting enough affection? Why do they have all those great things? Why am I not as fast, strong or as powerful as him? I keep making mistakes, why am I not good enough? Essentially, my complex life puts me into the paradox of unworthiness.
This difficult transformation from from childhood to adulthood as the world goes from simple to complex creates the stories and messages that govern our lives. We create complex responses to survive and often pursue having money, recognition, achievement, and affection to overcome them. We essentially become engulfed in “the cares of this world”.
I believe, as many of us approach mid-life, we see that the drivers of our activity are irrational and fleeting. This crisis forces the recognition that life’s complexities are choking out our personal fulfillment and God-given purpose. In that place, many of us begin another painful transformation. One that may cause complete upheaval of our present circumstance. We may make job changes, lifestyle reorientation, divorce, find religion, etc. This potential transformation requires a deep reflective and often painful transition away from complexity. It is our “hero’s journey.”
Unfortunately, for many, we try to recreate and reorganize these complexities. Fill the holes and pain from one story to another. Others aren’t willing to go as deep and dark as necessary to shed the messages, stories, or deal with open wounds that aren’t serving us anymore. We aren’t willing to peak behind the curtain and see the ridiculous levers that the wizard (let’s say ego) is using to manipulate our lives.
However, this crisis can also provide us the awareness that can return us to the simplicity and humility that Christ requests of us. By shedding our stories, our anxieties, our fleeting pursuits, we can move to one that is alive in the present; or alive in God’s presence.
I am convinced, that this simplicity only can be found after a dangerous transition through and appreciation of the complexity of our world. I am personally navigating this “hero’s journey” and (like the physicists) am unifying the forces that guide my life into a few simple truths. The belief that my happiness, purpose, and reason for being exists right before me, and can be seen in living a life of truth and simplicity.
Blessings – Pierre