About What We Call “Simple”

When some folks say, “Keep it simple,” could it be that what they are grasping for is something more accessible? And if so, why? Sometimes the language of “keep it simple” means, “Don’t go too deep.” It’s true that the “simple” can be made complex and impractical, depending upon the ability of the communicator. But the “simple” is also in danger of being thinned-out and devoid of the depth that makes sense of the “simple.” “Simple” isn’t always easy to grasp. Simple can and may be hard, and it’s the “hard” that makes it complex or “above my head.”

The tragedy of our current moment is we don’t make time to think. We have grown accustomed to being told how or even what to think (of course we would never admit it). We don’t read as much. We are becoming more and more a screen-driven culture of thoughts 250 words or less. Our brains are (literally) becoming rewired and trained to take in only small chunks of information. If it’s complex or disorienting information, like things we disagree with, it’s even less. We deny the impact of poetry and take less time to appreciate aesthetic beauty. We would rather “talk it out” than do the work on the front-end with reading, listening, and thinking, (and praying) before we talk. We are a society of TED talks and have legitimized our methods and approaches.

So let’s each one of us ask ourselves, how much do we read? Or do we settle for soundbytes or audible-based mediums like podcasts? And if we don’t read, which is problematic no matter how neurodiverse or differently-abled our brains may be (oddly, many who say they don’t like to read often read for their jobs or read a plethora of hot takes any given day), how much do we listen to presentations we already know we won’t agree with? If we don’t do any of this we are in danger of mistaking simple for shallow.

So what to do? Choose not to settle. Choose to stretch your brain. Just as an athlete runs that extra mile or lifts that extra rep, read a little more today than yesterday. Be gentle with yourself, but challenge yourself. Start reading poetry. Step inside the metaphor, hyperbole, rhythm and rhyme. Choose to listen to presentations or podcasts you disagree with and sit with the disagreement a while. Take notes. Be reflective. Invest the time.

If you’re a Christ-follower, read the Sacred Text. Find a translation that is new to you. If reading is hard, do what you can. Or, find an audible version and read along with it (you can do the same for books in general).

Or maybe even better, begin by practicing silence and stillness. Learn to just sit in silence for one to three or ten minutes a day. And if you’re a Christ-follower, do so in the awareness of God’s presence within and around you. Practice this daily.

In the words of Marcus Aurelius, “Dwell on the beauty of life. Watch the stars, and see yourself running with them.” Something so simple is at the same time so wondrously complex and, in our busy and frantic world, hard to do.

I’m convinced we are resilient people. I’m convinced that our brains are malleable and able to be stretched and “rewired” with intentional consistent practice over time.

Don’t settle.

And for those of us who communicate, the same for us. Don’t settle. Call people to deeper thinking and higher mindedness. Let’s work on our craft and get better at communicating. But let’s allow the simple to remain hard and if necessary, deep. Believe in the hearers to do the hard things, and allow the ones who won’t to receive what little they want.

With all this said, I could just be making simplicity complicated. 🤗

About Fred

I am a follower of Jesus, husband and father. I am a son, brother, friend, multi-vocational pastor with Williamsburg Christian Church, TEDx alum, ethnographer, community organizer, published author, founder and president of 3e Restoration Inc, and adjunct professor at Rochester University and Regent University. I received my B.S. in Ministry/Bible at Amridge University and my Masters of Religious Education in Missional Leadership (MREML) from Rochester University. I am currently working toward my Doctorate of Ministry in Contextual Theology at Northern Seminary.
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