Complexity and Simplicity: Improving Our Lives by Welcoming Both
BY: T. Franklin Murphy | October 2016 (edited February 14, 2022)
The simple, positive messages spread easy. We enjoy hearing them. Complex messages are not as attractive, requiring thought, and are politely skipped or blatantly rejected.
I appreciate simple guidelines (The Five Basics). Information unfettered by the confusions of complexity, makes for easy reading and easily identifiable areas to address. Whether its gratitude, forgiveness, mindfulness, or close relationships, they all give richness to our lives. But simplified information, distributed to the masses has inherent limitations.
Lost in the objective studies of behavior is the more human need for clear direction. But clarity in science drowns in the countless qualifiers, failing to motivate lay minded people like myself. Often the complex reality must be tempered, reconfigured into to smaller bites of information that pushes us forward, providing a sense of certainty. We seek hope, peace, and joy to soothe our soul. These messages must be delivered in purity.
We benefit from an encouraging push, that give us strength and confidence to conquer fearsome obstacles.
Simplicity tames the unapproachableness of complexity, allowing focus on fundamental issues—but the complexity still exists.
"Often the complex reality must be tempered, reconfigured into to smaller bites of information that pushes us forward, providing a sense of certainty."
Social mediums, such as facebook, are well-suited for these short and sweet boosts. We are more apt to accept simplicity over more weightier matters. As Francis Bacon suggested, the river of general acceptance is more likely to carry those things which are “light and swollen” and “drowns things weighty and solid.”
Complexity characterizes something with many parts where each part interacts with the other parts in multiple ways. The culminating consequence is the emergence of something of a higher order that is more than a sum of the parts.
Easy and Pleasurable Messages
Social media sites dedicated to well-being thrive on easy distribution, morphing complexity to digestible nuggets to appease consumers rather than inform. Many moderators endlessly post thoughts, pictures and quotes that cater to mass acceptance rather than scientific evidence. Proclamations about life, love and success fly through cyber space, jumping from computer to computer, and mind to mind. Popularity, not solidness, becomes the driving force behind beliefs. The consequence of unfettered electronic distribution of untested “truths” has yet to be realized.
Pockets of history are bursting with frightening examples; the masses fond for the simple and familiar reject the complex and novel. Many great minds courageously suffered rejection and even death for challenging accepted beliefs. Perhaps, the complex realities of living will never be fully embraced. Complexities demand too much effort to distribute; money and fame usually fail to reward those proclaiming difficult to understand concepts. Complexity will always struggle, losing in competition with the gleeful simplicities of hope.
We may find momentary relief from the simple encouragements, such as “Life is meant to be enjoyed;” but momentary emotional boosts must eventual address the real problems of living. If motivation is followed with incorrect action, we will find ourselves further from our goal.
We must not consistently ignore complexity. We should look a little deeper into behaviors, consequences, and current realities. Using oversimplified explanations for life may justify destructive action that damages relationships, careers and dreams. The appealing tug of a catchy phrase doesn’t make it true. Feeling good needs practical applications of doing good. We must follow through with actions that lead to desired destinations.
A few examining questions often reveal hidden weaknesses behind motivational statements. We delve into complexity by asking that momentary twinge of glee. We can examine a statement such as, “life is meant to be enjoyed.” By asking:
We Must Find Balance
The underlying message of enjoyment is appropriate; but without caution the message justifies harmful behaviors. We often adopt simplified statements without examination, allowing the simplified statement to form beliefs that quietly ruin behavior. Unknowingly our acceptance of a partial truth influences decisions that lead down paths we would prefer not to go.
We can enjoy heart-warming messages that give brightness to the bleak days of ordinary living. Inspiring messages cultivate our minds with hope, preparing the heart for improvement. But healthy integration requires skepticism, acknowledging limitations, and painstaking research to gather supporting evidence to new knowledge. We must be vigilant not to forsake the complexities by neglecting the weightier matters of truth. Our health requires a healthy balance of simplicity and complexity. Here we learn to enjoy life responsibly.
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