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KAMALENDU CHAKRABARTI

SONGSOPTOK THE WRITERS BLOG | 9/10/2014 |






SIMPLICITY: 
IT IS GREATEST VIRTUE OF HUMAN QUALITYAA




This time I want to talk about simplicity. Compared to the people around me, I feel that I probably fall in the category of simple people. I give most importance to simplicity. It keeps my mind clear and peaceful.

Definition of simplicity:  Ironically, the definition of simplicity is most complicated. No one has yet been able to  define the word ‘simplicity’ in a simple way that can be understood easily and clearly.

The dictionary definition of simplicity goes like this:

1.       The state of being free or at liberty rather than in confinement or under physical restraint: He won his freedom after a retrial.
2.       Exemption from external control, interference, regulation, etc.
3.       The power to determine action without restraint.
4.       Political or national independence.
5.       Personal liberty, as opposed to bondage or slavery: a slave who bought his freedom.
I think that these definitions are incomplete and do not reflect the true nature of the word.

According to Oxford Dictionary, simplicity is ‘the quality or condition of being easy to understand or do.’

I made an intense search in net to know more about simplicity but could not find any suitable definition. One of these go like this --  “The concept of simplicity has been related to in the field of epistemology. According to Occam's razor, all other things being equal, the simplest theory is most likely to be true. In the context of human lifestyle, simplicity can denote freedom from hardship, effort or confusion. Specifically, it can refer to a simple living style”

I feel that this type of attempted definition only make things more complicated. I personally do not believe in such type of definition. A simple man might not be able to define an issue but definitely will make things more complicated.

Even Albert Einstein did not attempt to define simplicity. He, in his own style, said, "If you can't explain it to a six year old, you don't understand it yourself “. That means he wanted a simplified method of teaching, which  in practice is very difficult.

I myself believe in simple method of teaching. I was a teacher in medical colleges and during that period, I always insisted students to express the intricate subjects of medicine as simply as possible and not just cram and answer in a way as is written in the prescribed text book. I always say that if one doctor cannot make a lay man with little or no education, understand the illness he is suffering from, the doctor himself did not understand the basis of the illness.

Leonardo da Vinci wrote an excellent essay on simplicity. He in his own opinion described simplicity as “Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication”. He said, “Simple is beautiful. Complex is ugly”. It is very true that the more one moves away from simplicity, the more he exposes his ugliness.

Is simplicity is inherited or acquired?  The answer is not very clear. There are examples that many members of same family have the quality of simplicity. On the other hand, there are families where people are heterogeneous mixture of simple and not so simple individuals. I do not know about any study which showed the evidence of link between the genes and simplicity. But probably there are links between these two. Some are born simple. Others may acquire simplicity from the environment and the associated people. But people, whose basic nature is not simple, may remain or not remain out and out simple for ever. Some people stay simple or pretend to be simple, may actually carry a very complex nature. They use the tool of simplicity as their weapon for achieving bigger things they really  do not deserve. But ultimately true simplicity remains simple in spite of transient deviations.

Is simplicity the name of foolishness?  Definitely not. Many people use simplicity synonymously with foolishness. A simple man may appear foolish, but they may have better intelligence than others. They bear a clear mind to think. So they reach out to the truth more easily and clearly. A complicated man makes everything complicated and thus goes further and further away from truth.

Is simplicity equal to simple living style only?  It is a common belief that a simple man always has a simple lifestyle. Conversely, a man who has a lavish lifestyle can never be simple. This is not true.  The concept of simplicity is an intrinsic character of a man. It is the mindset and does not relate to just what one eats and clad. Having written that, I agree, that mostly simple people have simple lifestyle.  

What is simple living style?  Simple living encompasses a number of different voluntary practices to simplify one's lifestyle. These may include reducing one's possession or increasing self-sufficiency, for example. Simple living may be characterized by individuals being satisfied with what they need rather than want. Although asceticism generally promotes living simply and refraining from luxury and indulgence, not all proponents of simple living are ascetics. Simple living is distinct from those living in forced poverty, as it is a voluntary lifestyle choice.

Adherents may choose simple living for a variety of personal reasons, such as spirituality, health, increase in quality time for family and friends, work–life balance, personal taste, frugality, or reducing personal ecological footprint and stress. Simple living can also be a reaction to materialism and conspicuous consumption. Some cite socio-political goals aligned with the anti-consumerist or anti-war movements, including conservation, degrowth, social justice, ethnic diversity, tax resistance and sustainable development. Degrowth (in French: décroissance, in Spanish: decrecimiento, in Italian: decrescita) is a political, economic, and social movement based on ecological economics and anti-consumerist and anti-capitalist ideas.

Does a simple perceive knowledge like mirror-image? This is completely untrue. People think that a simple holds knowledge just as the mirror-image of what he sees and listens. A simple man has a clear mind with an uncomplicated thought process. Thus, ideally his brain does just store knowledge as he perceives through their five special sensory systems and can analyze them in his simple way and better response as and when required. Because he thinks in a simple way, most of the time he understands and reacts quickly.

Is it easy to deal with simple people? Apparently people think that simple people are easy to deal with. One can easily handle a simple man. Yes, to some extent a simple mind can easily be manipulated to get work done. But because a simple mind is tagged with intelligence, he cannot be misled all the times. Simple man when realizes that he is doing something, he ought not to do, he does not feel any hesitation to deny to act. He needs little, so unlike complicated man does care about his gain or loss. In general, a simple mind avoids companies of complicated people.

Can a simple man always remain simple?  The overall answer is yes. Simplicity is an intrinsic character of simple man. But he is also human being and like others, they also feel desires. He may have desire to have good house, desire to have costly dress, desire to have plenty of money. In pursuit to achieve all those things, he may be involved in the complicated acts. More he is involved in complicated and unethical acts, more he becomes entangled with troubles. These troubles make him conscious and restrain him from the crazy run for money.  I am very much tempted to use and share the beautiful depiction of Leonardo da Vinci.    It goes like this:

“Honestly I believe that when you don’t have this kind of crystal clear focus, it’s usually because you are not that sure what you really want. You think you know – but you don’t – because you don’t know WHY exactly you want something. It’s not just…” I want XYZ millions or billions” – the question is why? What is behind it? Once you can define that, you might realize that the way you are trying to attain your goal is working AGAINST you, not for you.

I’ll use myself as an example… I want money, lots of it. But why? For years I didn’t really ask myself this question clearly, I always knew I wanted money, but I never looked for a deeper meaning. It seemed that whenever I had money – I spent it!

So maybe I didn’t really want money that much after all. Maybe I wanted something else. Then I asked myself – why do I want money? Because I want freedom, the ability to do whatever I want whenever I want it without having any financial restrictions. Traveling for a year. Chilling on the Maldives for months, never having a boss, having total freedom of my time – reading books, writing, learning something meaningful, being able to do what I love. Then, what is it that I love? Either way, money wasn’t the real goal, the real goal was and is freedom, and the pursuit of money, just for money’s sake – only takes away my freedom. It takes away my time and energy, making me focused on achieving money – not freedom. But when you simplify things and know the real reason why you want something you see that you can strive for that directly, and bypass what you think you want.”

Here I think one incident of Swami Vivekananda may not be out of context. One simple and very idle man came to Swamiji and requested him for some advice of life. With a soft smile Swamiji said to that man, You start telling lies. The people around were stunted and one of the surprised men asked Swamiji, How come you, sir, being the propagator of truth, could advise a man to lie? Swamiji smiled and said that the man is very very idle. If I would tell him to meditate or to do any other types of work, he will never do. For him lying will be easy. When he will start telling lies, he will be amidst many kinds of troubles. That will make him active. When he will be active, it will be easy to advice for good things for life.

By the above story, I like to mean that if a simple man falls into troubles through unethical works, he will quickly realize his mistake and will stick his original nature. A simple man cannot continue unscrupulous activities.

A simple man cannot prosper: The word prosperity is confusing. Does it mean big luxurious bungalow, costly dresses, costly cars, good food etc.?  What do we want in life? Is it a jungle of concretes or peace of mind? For me, a peaceful life is more prosperous than lots anxieties and tensions with cores of money under the mattress. If a simple man with his simple thoughts continues to do his job sincerely, he will have sufficient of money for comfortable living.

Does Simplicity keep one away from advanced technology:  That day I was going on a cycle rickshaw,  I saw a costly cell phone in his hand. I was bit surprised and asked him where from he got it.

-- What do you mean by I got it? I purchased it with my own money. He said with annoyance.

-- Sorry for asking such question. But it seems to be very costly. It is good that your rickshaw pulling business is running fine.

-- Sir, you call this a business? It is hard to provide two times foods and maintain family with two kids.

-- Then why have you purchased such a costly phone? It must be costing fifteen to twenty thousands.

-- Fifteen to twenty?  I spent forty five thousands on it.

-- Can I know why have you spent so much, where there are many low-cost good ones?

-- I know. See I will never be a rich man in my life time.  I will not have a big house, car. I will never able to provide costly food and dress for my children. So I thought that with this phone I can feel equal to other rich man. It is simply for ego satisfaction.  Now I feel good when I take the phone in hand.

-- There are many applications and options in it. Can you handle those?

-- I really do not care for those. I even cannot save names in my phone. But I am fine with that.

-- Where from did you get the money?

-- I made heavy personal loan from someone which I have to return with interest.  I am under tremendous financial pressure. Leave it sir, God will see.

God will see. Do you think this man is simple? Certainly not. He is greedy and fool. We talk about advanced technology and spend on it. Some advancement is doing well to the society but most others are simply useless and rather harmful and damage the mind of the people.

Simple things are always better. Take the example of toys. Give an advanced toy to a three year old child and see how he reacts with it. You press a button the toy will run, jump, summersault automatically. Within a few minutes the child will go back to his old broken box and use it as his car.  He will pick his rubber ball and roll it on the floor. All children love simple toys which they handle easily and innovatively.

Does simple people cause harm to others?  As such a simple man does not deliberately cause harm to others. But as he tries to find a simple solution of problem and acts accordingly, this complicated man may think that he is harming. When a simple man sees that some men are involved in unscrupulous and unethical acts, he feels no hesitation to stand up and resist. He never cares that this action might have strong kickbacks. A complicated man will think several times before resisting antisocial acts like rape, theft or any other antisocial acts, if they do at all. They remain onlookers most of the times or even try to extract benefits from these antisocial activities.

Conclusion:  Simplicity is the best way of life. It keeps one happy, peaceful. A peaceful and clear thought process makes him more creative and beneficial to others.

So, friends, be simple and be happy.
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