Of simplicity and its search

There are attributes like simplicity that are not to be judged by the one communicating the message. Whether through art, craft, invention or any other human work simple things rise through the surface and are recognized as such by a majority. Even keeping these lines simple when talking about simplicity is a laborious exercise. Simplicity is usually reserved to the ones that have traveled the same knowledge road many times, and in the journey have picked up the most natural way to simplify a concept, a problem, a message.

When young we go the opposite way. As kids everything is given to us in its simplest form and we understand as much as we need to go by, not more. The process of separating from simplicity towards more complex things is probably a product of being away from nature, and of progress itself. Too many things are social fabrications, and cultural manners that children need to learn, and we are very eager for them to start as soon as they understand beyond simple. We don’t realize what they lose in the process, as we have lived away from it for most of our whole life and already went through the cycle bigger —> complex —> better modern life teaching.

Our love for a busy live, full of a laborious exercise of an everyday day get us closer to what progress means for us, and in the noise of so many things simple is a more rare experience, to find, to generate. From potentially simple beings in harmony with nature, to a rather complex humankind living in a web of culture that requires lots of explanation and “education” for a kid just to find its place.

Simplicity and its search is an aim not common for people to set themselves into anymore, and how simple and still challenging that aim is. To get there seems we need to understand things better and start appreciating the bigger picture not the very close and detailed view that does not let us see it. Is like zooming out from the intricate patterns and details and see the land from above and above as one unity of mass exquisitely complex but very simple to understand for every creature of it.

Simple is also many times forgetting about what we now is complex. Just forget, in a thought experiment. Just assume, that what you know is difficult is not, and it might not even be there for a second. Liberated from the usual constraints you start to see something you never see before, a concept, a structure, a mechanism, which by themselves they are very simple, but hidden from the view of the ones lost in the variety of things happening in the surface. For the most scientific disciplines like biology, chemistry and physics the simple process is like a cleaning up the knowns and start searching for more simple elements, like in cooking a sauce reduction, you end up with a more elemental and stronger idea.

In a way that is probably the right process to go about simplicity in general, as you get older your mind needs not to accumulate more things to carry, but less, cleaning and cleaning everyday, finding the worth keeping and leaving the rest as not important. Is like a summary exercise, but not a shallow one, it could very specific and detailed and still be simple. The important thing to see is how you only grow older and wiser when there are less things that you really know, less things that you understand very well, and for the ones you claim to know they are simple enough so you can explain it to your kids or grandkids and for them not to have an issue to understand them. There the cycle is reversed, from a young person in search for complication, to an old one in search of simplicity and that again can talk the same language as when he was a kid, with a whole life of effort to be able to get there.

Simple in this sense seems to be a journey, a never-ending one, not a destination. The strike of genius that we identify in the simplicity of masterpieces works of art, inventions, and even scientific discoveries is something that almost don’t need explanation, is so human and elemental that we almost grasp what they are instinctively. At the same time, recognizing how infinitely remote would have been for us to see things in the same way as masters do, even in fields very close to our everyday experience. We somehow understand our limitations towards simplifying things, but fail to see a connection in the searching for it as a way to get us closer to true simple creations.

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