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Simplicity: The ultimate sophistication

Simplicity: The ultimate sophistication

This is a departure from recent musings...I hope you find it compelling...

I have, for some time now, been delicately playing with the idea of creating a Simplicity Movement – a grassroots campaign designed to slow down life; to simplify it; to bring time back into alignment with my soul’s yearning for pause, for solitude, for contemplation. While I still hunger for this, I have found myself taking notice of another way of understanding “simplicity”. This is how I came to move more deeply into the heart of this concept…

This week’s segment on 60 Minutes profiled the recent writings of Walter Isaacson – the author and biographer of “Steve Jobs”. As he recounted his experience of the iconic figure that was Steve Job’s, I slowly found myself drawn into the story of a man whose creative fire both sparkled and sometimes burned as he navigated a path to conflicted greatness. During this interview the author cited what I understand to be the philosophical underpinnings of Steve Job’s design genius. “Simplicity” he stated “is the ultimate sophistication.” What struck me upon hearing this was the paradoxical nature of this statement for it challenged the very notion of what simplicity means in the context of my life. And it challenged the very essence of what it is that I yearn for as I strive for deepening experiences of introspection and peace. In fact, the union of “simplicity” and “sophistication” create an oxymoron that has inspired me to pause and consider what it means to be both/and – a characteristic that I attribute to advanced spiritual thinking.

I am not a child of the digital era. Although I appreciate the value of computer systems, internet services, and social media, I am not generally excited by the rapid progression and evolution of digital media, feeling instead, somewhat overwhelmed by the constant onslaught of new developments. I sense this is due, in part, to an aptitude that lies in other domains and so I am intrigued by what seems to be an unexpected coalescing of ideas that on the periphery appear oppositional. My vision of simplicity is equated with being unplugged from the digital world rather than being a reflection of such a complex phenomenon. In fact, the synonym for sophistication is “complexity” and so, the idea that simplicity might be married to this concept is fascinating. Perhaps, I muse, this references the seamlessness with which Job’s designed products that were functionally continuous, unified, whole. Perhaps it references product appearances as graceful, elegant, and simple to operate. Regardless, there is something profoundly universal in this understanding and as such, something beautifully sophisticated in the proposition.

This leaves me wondering then, what might simplicity look and feel like now? How might a movement designed to simplify life look, taste, and feel like in the context of this intriguing new exploration? Perhaps this is the sophisticated nature of simplicity – that there is more than one way of knowing and experiencing it…

How do you define simplicity? What makes your life effortless, graceful, easy?