Times of simplicity. There have been a few times of simplicity in my life. When I was a kid, there wasn't much more to life than school, play, and chores. That's it. I didn't have to worry about budgets, healthcare choices, voting, jobs, car maintenance, the emerald ash borer, or a million other duties of adulting. When I was in college, there were only grades, food, and sleep. When we lived in Italy, there were only work and occasional free time. And recently, with my father falling ill frequently, there are times when my folks are my only priority - the lawn will grow tall, the car tires will continue to wear thin, and my meeting schedule dwindles. Pretty simple. (Even though I try to squeeze work in while sitting in the hospital, life is still very simple when the doctor comes in or when my dad needs to readjust his position in the bed.)
Whether the reasons are good or bad, there is a certain relief that comes when one's life is radically simplified, if even for a short time.
Tyranny of complexity. The simplified times expose the tyranny of complex times, when there are a million things that we are trying to accomplish in a week or perhaps in a day. Many of the little tyrants are necessary ... and many are not. And when life is moving decently forward, we take on "one more thing" because we have the capacity to stuff it in the calendar somewhere.
But complexity eventually becomes the boss, the tyrant. It commands us, and we obey - disobedience is unthinkable. We have shifted from being time managers to being time slaves. And yet, I still think I can slip one more thing onto the overloaded cart hitched to the yoke I'm pulling.
No monastics we. By no means am I calling for a monkish life of abject simplicity, where we live in a communal dorm and grow our own cauliflower, with only homemade bee's wax candles for light after dark. Simple? Absolutely. Missional? Almost certainly not. I don't think overreacting to complexity is the calling for most of us.
The beauty of simplifying. The lesson, I believe, is to see the beauty of simplicity - and therefore seeing how ugly complexity can be. See how simplicity can add beauty to our own lives, and then have the discipline to pursue beauty. Rather than pursuing simplicity, pursue the beauty of simplicity (and you'll simplify in the process). Recognize how complexity can vandalize our lives, and then become an artist.
Art has always pulled us to make room in life for beauty.
I am no great example of this artistry, yet. But when I have taken steps to simplify, life gets a little more beautiful.
(Photo: By James Heilman, MD at en.wikipedia [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/)], from Wikimedia Commons)