It’s Simple

Back in the days when I regularly read newspapers, I always made a point of checking out the editorial pages.  I didn’t bother to read the op-ed pieces written by the editors, because  once I knew the editorial slant of the newspaper, I also knew exactly what its editors were going to write about any particular issue.  No, what I liked to read were the letters to the editor, because those were often written by ordinary people who felt strongly enough about a particular issue to write to the newspaper in the hopes of having their views shared with the community at large.  Some of the letters were insightful, some were angry, and few were funny (sometimes unintentionally).  But the ones that stood out the most were the ones that, in all sincerity, outlined a few simple steps that the writer was just sure would fix all of our society’s problems.

It never seemed to occur to the people who wrote those letters that if the solution to the complex and long-standing problems we face were really that simple, chances are that someone else would have thought of them by now.

Don’t get me wrong, I understand why someone would want to believe that if we just took a few simple steps, we really could end all wars, stamp out poverty, erase income inequity, cure cancer, banish racism, etc., and in general instantly transform the world into the kind of happy, healthy and peaceful place we all want it to be.  I understand it, but I just don’t happen to share that belief.  We may not want to admit it, but most of the problems we are facing today have been around for a long time, and I just don’t think they’re going away anytime soon.

Of course there are many things we can and should do to address the many challenging issues we face, both in our nation and in the world at large.  Throwing our hands up in despair doesn’t help anything, and actually makes things much, much worse.  But I do believe that we need to be honest, both with ourselves and with each other, and acknowledge that complex problems usually require complex and sometimes difficult solutions.  And we humans are rarely inclined to show the kind of patience, hard-work, tolerance and maturity that are needed to do the job.

I think it is natural for us to seek simple solutions, especially in a world that often seems so confusing and sometimes downright dangerous.  Maybe the answer is to quit trying to impose our simple solutions on other people.  Maybe, rather than insisting on telling other people what they should be believing and what they should be doing, we need to focus on implementing our simple solutions in our own lives.  Wasn’t it Mahatma Gandhi who said, “be the change you wish to see in the world?”  And really, it doesn’t get much more simple than that.

45 thoughts on “It’s Simple

  1. But isn’t that at the core of our problem? If we actually do something, then we will have to face the consequences of our actions. If, however, we simply tell somebody else what to do, then it becomes their issue and, if it backfires? “How was I to know that would happen. I’m no expert!”

    As you quite correctly note, there are many very complex situations which are probably going to require equally complex solutions, and to think simplistically is more a statement of our education and culture, than a statement of a viable solution. In total contrast, there is a lot to be said for free thinking and free expression. Who knows. It might just make somebody think, and thinking is good! 🙂

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    • Thinking is always good! Sadly, most of us just react, spout our opinions, and then expect other people to change to accept our world view. And I don’t think that works very well. But it seems to be the reaction that comes most naturally to us, I guess? Thanks for your insightful comment!

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  2. To me this is why people love Trump. He says simple things like ‘build a wall’. Like really? No-one bothers to think about all the complicated reality that would go along with that even if it WAS a good idea (which it obviously isn’t). Really? Come on dude! I agree with you, it’s a complicated world. But the simplest thing we can do: change ourselves and be kind.

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  3. Yes it’s very true Ann, we can all do our part in trying to make the world a better place, or at least our small part of it.
    I used to love reading Letters to the Editor too. I was always amazed by peoples rants and opinionated thoughts. Seems it continues today, just in a new medium, on FB!

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  4. If only we all could do that… be the change we want to see in the world…. there really are no simple answers it seems to the big issues. But maybe if many try to make small changes it can evolve into a big change. I’m not very political, but oh what a mess we are in this political year – eh? I guess all we can do is try to be “the change we want to see in the world” one person at a time.

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  5. “Be the change we want to see in the world” has become the motto I’m living by these days as it’s so easy to get caught up in the absolute craziness and heartbreak going on worldwide. That motto does little to effect the complex issues, but as I each day strive to make a difference in my little corner, I am finding doors that open to more opportunities. And if given the blessing to continue, who knows where those doors may lead. One day, one step at a time – be the change. Great post!

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    • That’s a great attitude, I think! One step at a time, changing things for the better in our own corner of the world. And who knows what the ripple effect will be? Thanks for your comment!!!

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  6. “Be the change you wish to see in the world” is a phrase I alternate with one by Carlos Santana (about peace) at end of my personal email. I love this, and agree wholeheartedly that personal responsibility is key. Well said, Ann. 🙂

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  7. Oh, absolutely, Ann; I’ve always thought we have to put our own house in order before being qualified to fix everyone else’s. And of course, whilst we set about doing our work, we can still extend compassion, generosity, and loving kindness to all beings. These are simple ideals, but they are realisable, and in my experience, lead to contentedness.

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  8. I still read Letters to the Editor online and I know exactly the type you mean. We are plagued with them at the moment on Brexit and Independence, and I guess you are with the Presidential election. Even worse are the comments below the line on online articles. I try not to look, I really do, but sometimes I can’t help myself. Simplistic and vitriolic – much worse than Facebook where I only have trusted people. Keyboard warriors – you’re right, they should get out and live the solution. As should I more often.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes our election is getting the same kind of reaction as Brexit, with both sides spewing nasty and simplistic accusations at the other. It is very depressing, but I try to remember that most people really don’t write such things. It really is the keyboard warriors, as you say!

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  9. Your post is timely for me because I just had a long discussion yesterday with a student who was agonizing over his anxiety and inability to put himself out there to make new friends. I thought about how our minds are our own worst enemies, and that humans really have a way of overcomplicating things unnecessarily. I think things can be simpler, but too often our minds grasp for the difficult. It’s like a disease. I think the cure is love. Not enough people are well-loved or love well enough. Now I know that’s simplistic!

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  10. Yes, we often make things so much harder then they have to be, especially with our own lives. More love may be simplistic, but sometimes simplistic is exactly the right solution. It certainly is when we’re talking about how to love one another, and ourselves, I think. Thanks, Kim! I always appreciate your comments!

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  11. I agree that many of the most serious problems often have long histories, complicated causes and no simple solutions. All the same, I think there is still room for hope. Even problems that seem completely intractable can be successfully tackled, although this generally requires, time, dedication and effort.

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    • Bun, I’m so sorry, but I just saw this comment! Your last three comments have either gone into my spam folder, or were waiting for moderation, and I didn’t realize it! My comment settings mean that the first time someone comments, I have to approve it, but after that, the their comments are posted immediately. I don’t know why your comments were singled out, and I apologize for that. Your comments are always insightful and usually funny, so please know how much they are appreciated!

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  12. I must admit, after a career of building software systems, I’m a firm believer in the KISS principle: Keep It Simple Stupid. At least insofar as possible. Complex solutions go wrong more easily than simple ones do and often cause even more complex problems. But that does not mean ignoring the full scope of a problem just because it makes you uncomfortable, it just means whittling away at manageable chunks. As far as more worldview oriented issues, all we can really do is encourage folks to honestly look at both sides of the problem, and try to be a good example.

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  13. Great post, Ann on many different levels. There is a unique, humorous and sometimes disturbing reflection of society in some of those editorial responses. Looking at ourselves should always be our first attempt at resolving a problem. I’ve always liked the song Imagine for that reason. When you think about it, everything we’d want our lives to be, everything we’d like to see society reflect is in our power. Everything. If each one of us stopped and did the right thing, accepted each other for who we are and practiced patience, kindness and tolerance, we would live in a very different world. Unfortunately there are forces who have a different mindset. Still, imagine if even most of us just did our part.

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    • I wish everyone realized how much better the world would be if we lived according to the principles of love, kindness, and acceptance! Because you are right, we could absolutely have the society we want if we did. Sadly, it doesn’t seem to happen. But we can still model the behavior we want to see, and have hope. And I love Imagine, too!

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  14. I think these people often sound off in a newspaper because they feel so unheard in their daily lives. I’m not sure if they really believe, though, that what they are suggesting can actually be achieved.

    Hope is what keeps us alive through the worst conditions, yes. And aiming at love and loving others is good, too, but I don’t think the human species is sufficiently advanced yet to achieve much in such a short time period – we’ve not done much yet. So…. I just look to nature and find solace there, and to the people I know who have some calmness within. (Including myself, on occasions when I do!)

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    • That’s a good perspective that I hadn’t considered. Maybe they are just writing about their hopes, rather than a plan they actually believe can be implemented easily and quickly. Because we all have to have hope, even though human nature hasn’t really changed much. Thanks for sharing this, it’s given me a new way to look at it!

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  15. An apt point. Humans are natural problem-solvers–we even invent games to give us new problems to solve. But we want easy solutions like we seek in entertainment. Most real solutions are far more complex and require a great deal of time, energy, and talent to implement.

    It’s just our sound bite culture. Everybody wants something solved before the next commercial.

    Liked by 1 person

  16. Couldn’t agree more with you. Every tiny little step counts, right? We can all do something, no matter how big or little. Maybe that’s the easy solution to all the problem. To do the little things we can do.

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