Simplicity is complex

Both very simple and very complex

My experiments with simplicity have resulted a few different permutations, culminating in one of the best years of my life (to date). Yet simplicity is an ongoing journey that brings sacrifice as well as reward and pain as well as pleasure.

Since July I have been living one version of the simple life here in Kenya – lounging cat-like in the rays of diminished responsibilities and time. Despite the absence on this platform, Simpletom has wiggled on, in the form of two first-drafted chapters of a book.

Simple living can, as you might imagine, be the easiest thing in the world, leading you effortlessly though the days. At other times, pursing simplicity can provoke a host of paradoxes, as you scrabble to maintain a simplicity that tangles the more you pick at the knots of complexity.

Simplicity isn’t always simple. There is an ever-changing balance that must be gently observed, or the pleasures of simplicity can remain beyond reach, the irony of which serves to goad.  It would be comic if it wasn’t so frustrating when you find yourself unable to live simply. It should be simple, right? I mean it’s there in the bloody phrase. Simple. Cue some of Murphy’s best legalese.

Yet it’s not always easy. If it were, we presume, it would be ubiquitous, given how rewarding it is.

One of the most interesting and important lessons that I’ve learned this year is to give light touch to the moments when life can appear complex, despite your intentions to the contrary. How to explain this eloquently?

I’ll try: When trying to live a simple life, things can often conspire against your intentions. It is only when you let go of the desire for continual simplicity that the complexity that has formed reduces somewhat and you find yourself where you wanted to be. The more you try to shift the balance, the harder the obstacle. Yet when you want something, it’s almost impossible to let go of that desire, even if the letting go is the solution to getting where you want to be. To use an analogy, it’s like trying to sleep when you can’t – the harder you try, the harder it gets.

Life doesn’t have to be complicated. Think of our citizens of Ladakh and Kenya. Our education systems train us to try hard and become experts, yet with sleep or simplicity, this can often take us further from our goal.

Relax. Take your time. Be gentle with yourself. Accept things as they are. Accept that there will be periods of life which work against you, no matter how hard you try to wriggle free. Enjoy this moment, even if it includes pain, suffering or sadness. Take on the moments that don’t seem to work. Enjoy times that teach you, even if the hurt. As my great friend, musician Jim Kroft says, “Suck it up”!

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