The complexity of simplicity Pt. 1

Below is a journal entry I wrote in April of 2008 about the previous year (Before I had a blog, ha). I now post it because we had quite the discussion on simplicty last night in our community. In fact, this whole month, we are exploring this idea in different, tangible ways. I thought I would post this . . . these were my thoughts two years ago. But when discussing last night, I feel like I have a whole new flood of insight and thought that greatly expand on this. So, I plan to follow this up with a post that expands on this idea much more and one that perhaps gives rounder thought to this immense topic. Maybe it will even use Bible verses this time. Ha.



“Simplicity is the property, condition, or quality of being simple or un-combined. It often denotes beauty, purity or clarity. Simple things are usually easier to explain and understand than complicated ones. Simplicity can mean freedom from hardship, effort or confusion. It may also refer to a simple living lifestyle. Can also be the basis,or bare foundation to terms of understanding, proving no depth or intricate reasoning.” -(Sorry, two years ago, I didn't site my source)


What does this look like in our world and what is its purpose?

A question I’ve asked myself so many times since last year. One I feel I have come a long ways in understanding, but far from practicing. Recent thinking on this topic again, as well as recent conversations about this have led me to the following.

Like most ideas in my life, simplicity was first understood by me on one of the far ends of the pendulum

In this case, legalistic asceticism.

Giving up ALL possessions, fixating on only pleasures that directly involve God, living literally as Jesus did, basically denying ALL worldy pleasures to inherit heavenly ones, etc. was my idea of “Simplicity”

Simplicity, in my mind, started outwardly so it could change me inwardly.

Well, this was a big task, but Lord knows I got to a point where I was willing to go homeless (But this would been out of guilt and not love).

My first Baby, baby, baby step in doing this was to (Probably without the knowledge of anyone at this point), get rid of well over half of my clothes. I trimmed it WAY down. My next step was to get rid of about 75% of my DVDs and almost all my CD’s (But what does it matter, the music was still on my computer).

Then again in the winter, I got rid of over half my winter clothes.

My shoes of choice had become, in the winter, a pair of shoes I’ve had for 5 years, and in the summer, a pair of sandals I’ve had for 8 years.

I was well on my way to simplicity.

Somewhere along the way I realized the enormity of what I was pursuing and it killed me. At what point am I simple? I could have only one shirt, but if a boy in Africa comes on TV and has no shirt, then do I have too much? Wait, I have a TV? Should I be watching that? What about my car, why do I have that when I could easily Bike . . . or walk! To be simple, do I need less “things”? How much less? Being dirt poor in America, is like a King in other countries, how do you reconcile that? As a disciple of Christ am I commanded to sell all my possessions and give to the poor? If so, don’t the poor I give money to then just use it to buy “Things” and therefore disobey the command I followed to bless them, giving them the very thing I have rebuked? Should I give up my cell phone? Say, “screw the internet” and withdraw? What is the answer?

The enormity of a goal that seemed all but impossible to reach, rendered the end of any sort of pursuit of “simplicity” in my life before I even got very far. I gave up, because life had become full of nothing but guilt and complexity in this effort.

I have come to believe that obtaining inward simplicity through becoming outwardly (specifically materially) simple is like believing that putting on Pro football gear will make me a Pro football player.

At some point I just arrived at what I believe true simplicity is.

Growing communion with God.

This is an inward event.

That has outward changes.

Because honestly, if we focus on inward simplicity, that is, growing communion with God, then doesn’t all the worldy desires just naturally begin to fade away?

While dressing up as Pro footballer doesn’t make me one, it is true that all Pro football players wear the gear. The gear has no bearing on ability, but in those who do have the ability, it is an outward and necessary expression of the reality.