Before I got to the age when I had to get injections in my knee, Paul and I played a lot of tennis. In fact, tennis is the reason I had to get shots in my knee. I was never great at the sport; I took it up too late in life to be a natural; yeah, let’s go with that instead of I didn’t have enough talent. But on the court, when I was in position and lined the shot up, there was nothing like the sound or feel of the ball hitting the racquet in the sweet spot. In that moment, I knew what a pro felt like. There are a lot of areas in life where we experience the thrill of lining things up just right.
Right now our culture is trying to line things up. In the 80s for example, we had the culture of “Greed…is good” from Michael Douglas in the 1987 movie Wall Street. It epitomized the big spending and materialism of that decade.
Now the pendulum is swinging in the other direction, and many are joining the Voluntary Simplicity Movement that consists of people who are trying to resist “high consumption lifestyles,” who are paring down, who believe less is more.
Ironically when I googled books about simplicity there was a plethora of them: The Simplicity Principle, Elegant Simplicity, Voluntary Simplicity, Freedom of Simplicity, Organized Simplicity, Abundant Simplicity, Soulful Simplicity, Everyday Simplicity, Courageous Simplicity, Fearless Simplicity, Graceful Simplicity, etc. It was a little funny as I continued to read title after title.
Black Francis, front man for the indie rock group the Pixies, said, “It’s more difficult to be simple, and it’s easier to be more complicated.” He was talking about his songwriting process, and he went on to explain that children often see simple details that adults overlook because kids’ minds aren’t “bogged down by the complications of life.”
I think I’ve mentioned before that as humans we have something called a negativity bias, meaning it’s much easier for us to be negative than it is for us to remain positive, but it turns out we also have a complexity bias. We tend to complicate things. We’re hardwired this way as a form of escape. We try to get out of things by overcomplicating them. But it also means that once we’re aware of it, we can look for ways to overcome it.
For example, if someone wanted to lose weight the simple answer is typically to eat less and move more, but we tend to complicate it with strict regimens and diets: Keto, Paleo, Intermittent Fasting, DASH, Vegan, Weight Watchers, Mediterranean, Raw Food, Low Carb, Dukan.
Even children complicate situations. Billy hits Sarah, and he's about to get punished. He immediately throws out there that she took his toy. Doesn’t matter, Billy is told; hitting is wrong. Poor Billy uses every weapon in his limited arsenal to implicate Sarah, but the facts are simple: regardless of what Sarah did, hitting is wrong.
The most simple concept for living a good life is probably also the hardest: love one another. Show compassion and forgiveness. No one said it was easy; they said it was simple.
“What if she lied to me?” we ask. “What if he wronged me?” we want to know. The simple answer, the answer the Bible suggests, is love them. Forgive them. Don’t find justification for your anger. Love them. It’s as simple as that. (wink, wink)