When I was in college, I was part of a singing group that traveled the Pacific Northwest (with forays to California, Utah and Montana). The group was really a promotional arm for the college; we would visit churches who supported the school, participating in worship, or giving concerts-raising money for the college. It was a great experience for the two years I was involved! In the process of giving the concerts, each member of the octet would usually be asked to introduce one of the upcoming songs. Some of us were more long-winded than others in our introductions. And when the words began to multiply, kissing sounds could be heard from other members -- a reminder to "Keep it short/simple, stupid".
I've been musing on simplicity over the last several weeks for a number of reasons (which I won't go into, to "keep it short"). The context hasn't been "living with less", but rather the ways that complexify our lives. One example: As I was growing up, I had a "to-do list" that outlined my chores for the day. It was a simple list. This morning, on the other hand, I spent quite a while categorizing, color-coding and prioritizing my "to-do's" for the day. Will that level of complexity help me get the tasks accomplished any better? Complexification!
Most of our religious traditions end up complexifying things pretty quickly. Rituals, liturgies, restrictions on food, special clothing, hierarchies, etc. "Routinization of charisma" is what sociologists call that pattern in the wake of a religious founder's death. The Buddha, for example, reputedly told his followers not to set up shrines to him. It wasn't too long after the Buddha's, death, however, that the shrines began popping up! Jesus is reported to have said (in brief), "Love God and love your neighbor. This is ALL the law and prophets" (Matthew 22.37-40). Jesus' followers often haven't seen that as sufficient.
This morning a friend (Thanks, Diana!) posted the following poem ("There was a time") by Ibn Arabi to her Facebook status update:
There was a time I would reject those
who were not of my faith.
But now, my heart has grown capable
of taking on all forms.
It is a pasture for gazelles,
An abbey for monks.
A table for the Torah,
Kaaba for the pilgrim.
My religion is love.
Whichever the route love's caravan shall take,
That shall be the path of my faith
Complexification, I think, contributes to the attitude of "rejection" the poet recalls. Whether or not I can accept everything the poem implies, it does-in the light of my pondering of simplicity-give me pause to wonder how much my own need to erect structures of security prevents "love's caravan" from reaching its destination.
Maybe it's time to return to those old college days: KISS! (Well, you know what I mean!!)