After 37 years in the full-time ordained ministry, I took early retirement, partly because I no longer enjoyed the increasingly complicated aspects of leading a congregation in today’s religiously partisan atmosphere, and that unhappiness reflected on my work. I now earn a living in the secular world and do sacerdotal activities filling in at churches on Sundays…a simpler and more satisfying situation for me.
I have been listening to “This I Believe” for a number of years now, and find the essays interesting and often inspiring, but none more so than one I heard recently by a 6 year old boy while I was driving to my little church on Sunday morning. He related a fairly long list of short comments. Most were delightfully whimsical as could be expected from a child. Some were amazingly insightful, showing wisdom beyond his years. But one was stunningly brilliant. He said, “I believe it’s all right to die, but not to kill.” I cannot remember hearing a more simple truth in many years.
I have for some years now come to believe that true human genius resides in the marked ability some of us have of knifing through the extraneous aspects of something that would either confuse and disorient us from seeing the heart of the matter, or attract and tempt us with superfluity to draw us away from it.
I particularly remember my powerful first impressions of the simplicity Albert Einstein consistently used in his visual images of incredibly complicated ideas, such as the image of the train coach going the speed of light in explaining his Special Relativity Theory.
He clearly had the ability to address very complicated ideas with amazingly simple insights.
Jesus of Nazareth, the guide to truth I follow, summed up the entire elements of spiritual truth in three succinct sentences: “Love God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength. Love your neighbor as yourself. And, Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” The simple truth of these ideas is so evident as to need no explanation. Yet, it has been almost two thousand years of complicating commentary that has turned the simple truth into a quagmire of conflicts.
In my secular position as Executive Director of the Detroit Office of Foreclosure Prevention and Response, I have found the issues of foreclosure mired in deep complications from things like securitized debt and other difficult issues that have, so far, prevented us from effectively addressing this devastating problem. Yet, for our Office, we have been able to knife through all that and have concentrated on the two realities that we believe constitute the heart of the matter…keeping people in their homes, and getting people in vacant houses.
I don’t wish to suggest that the foreclosure issues, or any other difficult human problems, become easily solved by catchy phrases of simplistic philosophy. But I do believe that concentration on the complications that tend to deny the ability to produce answers mostly freezes the intellect to arrive at and the will to undertake effective actions. Concentration on why things can’t be done undermines the ability to do what can be done. And the brilliant ability to simplify, that allows the cutting away of the extraneous to get to the core of an issue, is the best place to start to do something.
I believe that when either our personal lives or our coporate life becomes so complicated and confusing so as to cause enough angst that we become enervated and debilitated, then the genius of a concentrated simplicity is our saving grace. Simple truth is the best.
Just imagine if the simple admonition of that 6 year old philosopher, that it is all right to die, but not to kill, actaully was followed. What would our world be like? A lot better….this I believe.
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