As artists and professionals it is our obligation to enact our own internal revolution, a private insurrection inside our own skulls. In this uprising we free ourselves from the tyranny of consumer culture. We overthrow the programming of advertising, movies, video games, magazines, TV, and MTV by which we have been hypnotized from the cradle. We unplug ourselves from the grid by recognizing that we will never cure our restlessness by contributing our disposable income to the bottom line of Bullshit, Inc., but only by doing our work.
Steven Pressfield in The War of Art
Life is complex. Pretty much everything we do is complex. The sooner we can submit to the complexity of our existence, the sooner we can avoid simplistic reductions to the challenges and opportunities we face. And also, we can employ simplicity to tame the complexity of life. A tame horse is still a horse. Taming the horse allows us to interact with what is still a horse but in a manageable way. Metaphorically, when we tame life, we are not changing it from complex to simplistic. Taming life allows us to live life in a manageable way. Simplicity can help us do this.
Anyone who works on complex projects for a living knows that, no matter how you look at it, a complex project is a complex project. There is no simplistic way to launch a rocket into space. There is no simplistic way to build a skyscraper. There is no simplistic way to implement enterprise software. Yet, all of these complex projects are successfully accomplished by simplifying them. I have never known why anyone would want to eat an elephant, but we have all heard the way to do so is one bite at a time. In the same way, a complex project is broken into bite-sized tasks. Complexity is tamed little by little.
That is important to believe. It would be foolhardy to pursue a life of simplicity with the aspiration of making life simplistic. None of us who are attracted to simplicity should hope that, if we somehow do a good job pursuing a simple life then we will dodge the complexities of life. Simple living and avoidance do not mix well.
Simplicity is kind of like bundling up on a cold, clear, moonless night and looking at the stars. The more we settle into the act of gazing at the night sky, allowing our eyes to adjust, the more we see and appreciate the immensity of the universe. And it is beautiful. Simple living can slow us down, let our perspective adjust, allowing us to see and appreciate life in all of its complexity. It is a view none of us should miss out on seeing.
You must come to see that it is possible for a man to be self-centered in his self-denial and self-righteous in his self-sacrifice. He may be generous in order to feed his ego and pious in order to feed his pride. Man has the tragic capacity to relegate a heightening virtue to a tragic vice. Without love benevolence becomes egotism, and martyrdom becomes spiritual pride.
Martin Luther King, Jr. in “Paul’s Letter to American Christians”