Maybe Simple Is Beautiful?

ComplexityWe need some answers these days. We need answers to some of our lingering, seemingly intractable problems that surround us. We need a vision out of the morass. We need to simplify some of the complexity in which we have entangled ourselves.

Where do answers come from these days? So much of what we read and watch seeks to follow the scent of trouble, endlessly, sometimes hysterically, sketching out for us the problems. We have become a nation of problem-watchers, fussing and fretting about the problems without a clue about how to address those problems with solutions. Problem-watchers kick the can down the road. Problem-watchers always have someone else to blame.

Christians too are part of this adopted posture.

What happened to our vision-casters? The problem-solvers? What happened to our Christian vision for human flourishing, as N. T. Wright rightly names it? Is that vision still in the hunt? Still part of the problem-solving equation?

Perhaps our time of economic stagnation encourages us to feel that our problems are so intractable? We sense things are too complex. Things are too huge. Our leaders seem weak in the face of overwhelming odds, including the odds of political polarization. We feel stuck, most of the time.

Part of the problem in our postmodern culture is that we are not very confident about providing answers to anything. Who’s to say what is the “right path” toward a better world? By what authority? And so we remain uncertain and skeptical about answers to anything. We live in fear there are no answers. We are just too divided to come to conclusions about where we must head next. Deep down we remain an age of anxiety.

I’ve been thinking a lot these days that I want to press myself anew to focus on solutions, renew my commitment to that vision of human flourishing I find in holy Scriptures, reclaim for a dark world the light of the world. I want more intensely to explore what is true and good and beautiful. I want to get concrete about solutions. I want to focus on those people, in their lives and their writing, who focus on solutions.

I want to simplify things. I want to declare my own personal resistance to the myth of complexity. I want to think about solutions, proposing answers instead of always questions. I want to catch those glimpses of what is beautiful and announce them to the world. Or simply enjoy them. I want to spot the sacred shining out from the ordinary.

Perhaps we need to locate that simplicity that lies on the other side of complexity.

This is a kind of new-year’s resolution I’ve been thinking about. It’s a kind of subversive act for our day. I hope I can keep it up far into this new year and beyond. Make is simple. Think about the goodness that lies all about us. Be “radiant over the goodness of the Lord,” as Jeremiah encourages us. Perhaps then we will see solutions right before our eyes.

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Categories: Uncategorized

2 replies

  1. Good insight, Phil. I agree with your general premise. We should be reminded, however, of two views that would provide a caution to your advice. Albert Einstein famously said, “We should make things as simple as possible, but no simpler.” And similarly, H. L. Mencken reminds us, “For every complex problem there is an answer that is clear, simple, and wrong.”

  2. Right on, Phil! I am getting tired of our “trial by the press” – that is, a journalist or an editorialist writing for publicity, rather than for a solution. A book I am reading is “The Hole in Our Gospel” by World Vision’s CEO, Richard Stearns. Two problems he identifies, with thoughtful solutions, are the poor (both local & worldly) and the HIV epidemic. He suggests how we can help and what God can expects from each of us. I highly recommend!

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