Staying Simple

Food for Thought @ 3 Times Dim Sum

A complex dish concocted with countless ingredients and cutting-edge techniques may taste out-of-this-world, but, afterward, I get an uneasy feeling that I’ve been somehow manipulated. I don’t feel compelled to try it again. Complexity is not an effective way to win someone’s heart.

Today’s world is so complex and specialized that no one person can understand how it works, yet we assume that someone up there must know what they are doing.

On a massive cruise ship, everyone naturally assumes that the captain knows where he is going. Now, imagine suddenly everyone learns that nobody on the bridge knows what they are doing. Panic and chaos would ensue. The fact that there is no such chaos, at least in America, tells us that everyone is assuming someone, or some clever people, somewhere up there must know where this spaceship earth is going.

But the degree of complexity in today’s world makes it impossible to get the big picture necessary to make appropriate decisions. Our blind faith is practically religious. If you don’t believe in God, you should be panicking right now.

It seems that this is what happened in Afghanistan. Their national leader was just a mirage. As soon as the reality came knocking on his door, he fled the country. Everyone, including Afghans and Americans, assumed that someone was in charge. It turns out that nobody was.

Like entropy, everything seems to become more complex in the human world. It seems unstoppable. We have a pandemic, but the stock market keeps going up. At this point, there is not even a pretense of value reflecting substance. Causality is a thing of the past.

At a relatively new Chinese restaurant near me, I saw a dish called “Hot and Sour Cabbage.” A plateful of cabbage sounded boring, but offering such a simple dish came across to me as a bold statement.

These days, it takes a certain amount of courage and determination to remain simple and down-to-earth. Like floating in a river, if you don’t swim against the current, you get pushed down into complexity. You’d have to swim far to find clean water. It’s not intelligence or talent that gets you there, but the determination to understand something for yourself.