A Phrase to Save You Unneeded Stress

Below is a phrase that I think I came up with, but I’m sure I’ve put it together and/or partially stolen it from various folks out in the world of “those-trying-to-navigate-this-crazy-life,” and as far as I can remember, I don’t think I’ve posted it to the web.

Keep the simple, simple.
Keep the complex, complex.
Don’t make the simple, complex.
And don’t make the complex, simple.

To me, I always hear people say, “You’re just overthinking….” I can’t stand that comment because it is meaningless without context. For some things in life, overthinking can be real. But I also think that far too many complex ideas are reduced to oversimplified, worthless versions of their former selves. I think this plays out so often in the stupidly dichotomized (please, let me use this potential non-word) PRO/CON debates.  I mean, how often do we find ourselves NOT PRO and NOT CON.

So, what the hell does this mean?

  1. Running is simple. I am not talking about the industry of elite and overall competitive running. I am speaking of putting one foot in front of the other for whatever time and distance a person chooses. Here is an example of making the simple, complex: taking 45 minutes to get on the proper shirt, shorts, undergarments, visor, etc…; hooking up the electronics; making the perfect liquid to fuel concoction; among others (I don’t address footwear because that is a complex and personal exercise of N=1) and then going out for a 20 minute 2-mile run. Don’t get me wrong. I’m glad someone is moving a body, but really? Just go run. For such a short time and distance, a person doesn’t even need water.
  2. Healthcare is complex. Public healthcare is complex. Private healthcare is complex. Here is an example of making the complex, simple. Am I for socialized healthcare? Am I Pro or Con? These are both questions that attempt to force a dichotomy on something that doesn’t fit into a two-sided debate. In a word, I am “neither” pro nor con. Instead, I think there are benefits from many of the points on both sides of the false dichotomy, so why make it a dichotomy? Mainly, too many people like simple, and if something is marketed as simple, it sells better.

I know these are somewhat arbitrary and not fully-fleshed-out examples, but I think they do help to clarify why I think the above phrase can help us think more effectively for the many contexts of life.

Note: Though the concepts of simple and complex could be pushed into another false dichotomy, I see these concepts existing as a spectrum. There is a ton of space between for all levels of complexity, which should be the case for the many opposites we have in language. And, of course, I don’t want to sound like a hypocrite.

Make of it what you will.

About Jim Newell

Associate Professor of English, Daytona State College / Thinker / Ponce Inlet Surfer / Improviser / Dad
This entry was posted in Critical Thinking, listening, problem solving, Teach the Willing and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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