Simple Simplicity

by Arnold De Villa
October 30, 2010

In a complex world of multi-tasking, parallel networking, social hubs, and a myriad other technical loops of virtual space, simplicity has been slowly misconceived and degraded into the ranks of dullness and boredom. I remember an old editor who used to tell me not to send him to the library every time I wrote. I thought writing skills were limited to a broad spectrum of fancy words. I did just that and got nowhere. He painstakingly affixed a circled “R” to every manuscript I made; ‘rejecting’ what I mistakenly thought was something that exceeded understanding.

Simplicity is an abundant disposition for clarity. It is when we are able to start from the purity of intentions and strip ourselves from vile pretensions that we learn to enjoy the external world as an intimate space of our own “privacy”. As Paulo Coelho, author of “The Alchemist” says, “the simple things are also the most extraordinary things, and only the wise can see them”. To this I add, “Simple things will touch the heart more than any tapestry that can only fool the soul”.

When I look at a blank page, my instinct screams to fill it up with every verbal cosmetic I can conjure. My mind runs into a thick lexicon hidden behind my cranial folds. And my fingers itch to click away through streams of thought only to find out that the stream is merely an uncontrolled current of complex shallowness wanting to be tamed into a flowing source of thoughts.

Perhaps this yearning to be simple comes with age. After having passed through so many years of senseless accumulation, we wake up one morning with a shock to see that right under our very noses are “stuff” still wrapped in paper we received more than five years ago. We stare at our closets and the price tag of a garment still sticks out. Finally, we go the garage and realize that our cars do not fit well because “stuff” is everywhere.

When many of us were young and we did not have much possession to choose from, it was so easy to travel. There was nothing to fill up a suitcase and it was fun. Life was easy. Travel was light. And then we grew. The suitcase needed a daffle bag. The daffle bag came with a suit container. And the suit container matched with a utility pouch. The closet also grew in size almost as big as a bathroom with trays and racks of shoes and other knick knacks. For some strange reason, we aged with a strong attachment to such a chaotic possession. And now we want to let go. There seems to be more order when things are simple.

I recall those days when as a child I used to take summer vacations with my cousins who lived in the middle of a farm my grandmother owned. Having been born and raised in a metropolis, the simple lifestyle of a farm was for me a luxury. There were no alarm clocks, only a rooster. We woke up at almost the same time the cock-a-doodle-doo provided us with a morning’s ode. There was no store or bakery to buy breakfast from. My cousin invited me to take a walk. The morning dew was refreshing. The early rays of sunshine were passing through the bamboo leaves entwined between other trees. The gush of fresh air was intoxicating. I totally forgot the pollution and the car horns from the subdivision where I lived. Out of nowhere, my cousin looked under rocks and small holes. Little did I know that we were hunting for chicken eggs. We found three, more than enough for breakfast. The rest of the day was normally spent hiking, biking or swimming by a river. Those were cherished moments. Since Meralco did not provide that town with posts, there was no television to lure us at night. We sang instead while another cousin strummed a guitar. Or they told me about the scary tales of the “Kapre” or the “Manananggal” while we gazed at the stars and fireflies. I believed all of them. It was the simple thing to do.

Even school was simple. The teacher spoke. We listened. No questions asked. No asking questions. Those things came later. When I was in Kindergarten, birthday parties were part of the curriculum. All we had was an extra cookie, a box of juice and a small bag of toys. The kids went berserk. We also had puppet shows and the first Disney movies like “Bambi” and “Mickey Mouse”.

In as much as weight loss is good for the health, a simple lifestyle is good for our minds. Keeping up with the Joneses is so obsolete. Maintaining appearances is so old fashioned. Unfortunately, in the area of food, simplicity is preferred but complexity is more affordable. Look at the label and you will see that the more chemical elements it has, the less expensive that item is. Chemicals give it a longer shelf life, which means, you can keep a can of soup for more than a year or so and still be able to eat it when you want to. At that time, you just don’t know any longer if the essence of that soup is still there.

Ah simplicity, if it were a woman, it would be her morning’s face without the blush on, the lips without the lipstick, or the other gadgets that cover her wrinkles, pimple or acne. If simplicity were a man, it would settle for juice instead of beer. If simplicity were a child, it would not need to change. And if simplicity were as old as our living grandparents, it would need to watch out so not to lose its memory completely.

Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication, so says Leonardo da Vinci. And I do agree. After so many years of transcultural formation and transcontinental exposure, I have developed sediments of so many cultural layers that I was considered sophisticated. I beg to disagree. Simplicity is the ultimate expression of sophistication because it requires us to delete the chaff and to focus on the essence. It invites us to peel off the “arte” so that we can live the art. Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication because it has a special knack to attract. Thank you!

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