I included a chapter, “Simple” in my 2020 book of poems and reflections, A Cadence of Despair. Simple is something I come back to often. Like central and essential lake for water in the forest. Simple restores path for me.
I’ve excerpted a few paragraphs below, with one of the poems included in that section of the book.
Here’s to any of us finding the simple, the meta narratives, to hold our rather complex journeys through life.
A friend reminds me of a quote from Oliver Wendell Holmes, a former American judge and writer. It’s a quote that I often use in my facilitation work with groups, teams and communities when I’m trying to invite people to deeper layers of learning and insight. It matters, for many of us, to find the simple, but to also pay attention to where that simplicity comes from. Says Holmes, “I would not give a fig for the simplicity on this side of complexity, but I would give my life for the simplicity on the other side of complexity.”
Such a statement guides me, and many of us, to navigate and explore the roots of our pains. Or, to wander and wonder into what is behind our persistent yearnings. Or, to follow and befriend longings that help us find our way in the woods. Simplicity on the other side of complexity encourages each of us to go more fully toward life’s initiating moments, beckoning us to not be satisfied with the superficial.
I continue to learn that finding essence and simplicity is less like shopping for an item in a grocery store, available upon demand. It’s more like awaiting a flowering spring bulb to rise from the ground, which comes only with its own natural timing. I continue to learn that finding essence and simplicity grounds me with a gift of guiding principles, and of being clear at a gut layer amidst complex things.
For example, when I was in divorce, and the deep grief and shame that came with it, I needed to claim a simple headline that was true, yet brief. I needed a narrative arc that honored some of the hopes, dreams, and loss. I needed to find it for myself, and, for sharing with others. “We were very important people in each other’s’ lives – until we weren’t.” Of course, that’s not all of it. But there is a kindness in the simplicity of “just enough.”
When it comes to simplicity, I’m aware that simplicity can be, well, oversimplified (the stuff on this side of complexity). A certain nuance of simplicity can trick us into avoidance from a needed, and more complicated awareness. Simplicity can also be avoidance of the heavy lifting of difficult personal exploration. These are all nuances that we each must face and learn.
In The Simple
I love the way
that horses graze in a nearby field.
Sometimes the young ones run
in short spurts.
I love the way
that birds sing in morning sky.
Sometimes a chirp,
sometimes a whistle.
I love the way
that horses and birds remind me
in the simple.