Life in Community

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Life in Community

KISS (Keep It Simple Stupid)

July 4, 2019 by

To celebrate the holiday weekend, we’re re-posting this piece from last summer on the value of uncomplicated things. Jason writes, “When I stop and look at the things I find the most poignant, activities and experiences I and those close to me enjoy, they are mostly uncluttered and simple.” Enjoy the read, enjoy the weekend, and hope you find time to spend with those you love.

The direct rays of a summer sun are great for the ripening of sweet corn and melons, but not so beneficial for the drooping heads of our congregation, faces reddening to overripe as we sit row upon row in an outdoor church service.

Sweat stings the corners of my eye as the person with the microphone, who I feel has been speaking for some time now, is sharing his contemplations. Internally I gripe, “this guy needs to condense his message, just give us the punch line please.”

Service concluded and safely out of the sun, I comment on this to my wife, “I thought that last guy would never give up, he should start a podcast.” She just chuckled, “You’ve done exactly the same thing speaking at church; when we were first married on numerous occasions you had me cringing in my seat praying for the power to go out. Hang in there.”

I silently recall those moments of breathless zealotry when I felt I had something significant to say, as if many words would create a masterpiece. Ouch.

There’s this thought on straightforwardness I’ve been considering: “The height of sophistication is simplicity.” Modern life is so feature-infused, there’s pressure to take on more and more to be a success. This push for complexity feels desperate and overrated.

When I stop and look at the things I find the most poignant, activities and experiences I and those close to me enjoy, they are mostly uncluttered and simple.

Haystacks at Giverny by Claude MonetClaude Monet, Haystacks at Giverny

Examples: I like to draw and letting your work get muddied with a lot of detail (no matter how cool you think your ideas are) can result in a bad end product. Great art and music have many brilliant examples of minimalism speaking powerfully.

And what my kids like is pepperoni pizza, Mom, a good diving board, our pet Corgi, fireworks, time alone, comic books, competitive board games, and occasionally even Dad’s jokes. All pretty simple, and quality experiences.

We put together a dinner celebration with friends and the next door neighbors to celebrate the arrival of their new baby. The restoring breeze which brought a break in the humidity and the sounds of unperturbed happiness as the kids played on the lawn was relaxing. Truly good food (it sure looked simple in the magazine) accompanied by produce from the kids’ garden shared in company all made for a fine evening.

picture of a rice dish plus condiments

I’m slowly discovering that by letting go of the accumulated excess that drags you down you find authentic peace. Stripping away those things that bring about disharmony – the ever-burgeoning ego, long-held anger, a lot of unneeded noise, our possessive nature – we can find the real substance of life.

Haiku is another great example of eloquence in few words, so before you start yelling for me to condense my message and give you the punchline, I’ll close with something by Kobayashi Issa:

In this world
we walk on the roof of hell,
gazing at flowers.
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About the author

Jason Landsel

Jason Landsel

Jason lives in upstate New York at the Woodcrest Bruderhof.

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  • Am tremendously blessed by your weekly blogs & The Plough. Heard a change that states: Keep It Simple, Saints, rather than stupid.

    Pat Wieczynski
  • I live in Tower Block in Social Housing in Devonport, Plymouth UK. For some years we have been working to develop gardening. It's a fairly concrete landscape. We have some planters and are starting to gain a bit of momentum. Recently, Carinna came and joined us. She's never gardened before and we're working together. She shares the excitement of planting a seed, caring for it and seeing it grow. If anyone wants to figure out the 'secret of life', give them a packet of seeds.

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  • Your article is too long, man....

    David