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\”Simplicity\” – Word of the Week

Definition of the word of the week (SIMPLICITY): Clarity of expression or austerity in embellishment

Occam’s Razor is a logic principle that teaches us that, all things being equal, the simplest solution to a problem is usually the correct one. This principle cautions us against making unnecessary assumptions and helps theorists eliminate some ambiguities or inconsistencies that otherwise would develop.

This principle applies to life as well. Henry David Thoreau, author of Walden, lived this principle. He said, “I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived.”

Although it gained momentum among the hippie generation in the 60s, the need for simplicity in our lives has reached the mainstream of American society. Seeking simplicity is often not in the pursuit of self-sacrifice. Rather, many have come to realize that happiness seems to elude many in our high stress, consumerism-focused society. Many people are choosing a life that is financially more modest but rich with family, friends and a greater appreciation for community. I think it is easy to see that our lives have more conveniences, our cars are faster and we have almost instant access to a wealth of information. But, for all of those technological advances, is life better? Studies have shown that during the past generation, wealth has doubled but the number of people who consider themselves happy has not increased at all.

Duanne Elgin, author of Voluntary Simplicity, described many different paths one may follow to a life of simplicity. An “uncluttered simplicity” means cutting back on minor distractions to focus on the more important aspects of our life. “Choiceful simplicity,” like the path chosen by Henry David Thoreau, means living deliberately and in harmony with ourselves and contributing to the betterment of our community. However, my favorite path is “compassionate simplicity.” This path requires that we embrace our kinship with other people and pursue cooperation and fairness in dealing with other people. We seek win-win solutions to problems.

Just as in logic, the simple solution to life is usually the best one. We all have a path to choose in this life. Let us choose ours deliberately. Let us “choose to live simply so that others may simply live.”

The following quotations are intended to assist in explaining and exemplifying the word of the week:

There is no greatness where there is not simplicity, goodness and truth. Count Leo Tolstoy, Philosopher

A theory is the more impressive the greater is the simplicity of its premises, the more different are the kinds of things it relates and the more extended the range of its applicability. Albert Einstein, Physicist

The criterion of simplicity requires that the minimum number of assumptions be postulated. Albert Low, Author

Partial culture runs to the ornate, extreme culture to simplicity. Christian Boyee, Author

Simplicity is making the journey of this life with just baggage enough. Charles Dudley Warner, Author

Man is an over-complicated organism. If he is doomed to extinction, he will die out for want of simplicity. Ezra Pound, Poet

The spirit’s foe in man has not been simplicity, but sophistication. George Santayana, Philosopher

Simplicity in character, in manners, in style; in all things the supreme excellence is simplicity. Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Poet

The great seal of truth is simplicity. Herman Boerhaave, Physician

A refined simplicity is the characteristic of all high-bred deportment in every country and a considerate humanity should be the aim of all beneath it. James Cooper, Novelist

Manifest plainness, embrace simplicity, reduce selfishness, have few desires. Lao-Tzu, Philosopher

Beauty of style and harmony and grace and good rhythm depend on simplicity. Plato, Philosopher

The ordinary acts we practice every day at home are of more importance to the soul than their simplicity might suggest. Thomas Moore, Poet

By two wings a man is lifted up from things earthly: by simplicity and purity. Thomas Kempis, Mystic

Four basic premises of writing: clarity, brevity, simplicity, and humanity. William Zinsser, Author

LTC Patrick Beer, the Dean of Students and Commandant of Cadets at Georgia Military College, prepares this study guide each week as part of the institution’s character education program. He welcomes comments and suggestions from readers. He can be contacted by phone, 478-445-2710 or by email, pbeer@gmc.cc.ga.us