The difficulty of “simple”

Lately, I have been contemplating the word “simple”.

Simple things, simple pleasures, simple actions.  Simple is usually considered to be “easiest” or “fastest”.  It is rarely thought to be difficult to take the simplest way.

Difficult, though, is just what simple can be.

Simple kindness… for some kindness is difficult.  It is never easy to let go of one’s ego and be compassionate.  Usually compassion requires some form of sacrifice – at least on the part of one taking compassionate action.

Simple pleasure… how does one simplify pleasure – one first must remove ego and allow pleasure to infuse the soul.  The simple pleasure of a sunny day… one first must shove aside all the intruding needs, wants and have-tos to be able just to acknowledge that it is a sunny day.

The concept of harming none – the concept of doing unto others as you would have them do unto you – the concept of being excellent to each other – these are simple concepts.  But the actions required to achieve these concepts are very, very difficult – particularly when ego is in the way.

We must give up our egoic point of view.  We must remove ourselves from the equation.  “What’s in it for me?” should never be the first question or even any part of the question.  Heart-felt love, kindness and compassion for others and one’s self are not self-ish or self-centered – even if the love is for one’s self.  As long as egoic aggrandizement is not part of the motivation, love and even self-love — loving kindness and compassion for one’s self — supports the heart and builds the ability to give loving kindness and compassion to others.

A social worker I once knew had a moral compass that required her to ask “Will a child die?” To her, the worst possible outcome of any action was the death of a child.  While I agree that is the worst possible outcome, I think that even if the answer is “no” the question might just be the wrong question.  Harm comes in many shapes and sizes.  So too actions… the moral compass needs to be something along the lines of “Who/what is harmed?”  If by telling a “little lie” – nothing that seems “big” – you somehow cause another person to become homeless, you have caused great harm.  Is this possible?  Yes.  It very nearly happened to me.

“Ah!” you say, “very nearly” – well the results of that person’s “little lie” have not come to completion yet… I and my family could still become homeless.  Fortunately for me, there are others in my world that are far less egoic than the people who lied and caused the crisis.  Fortunately, should that horrible moment come that me and mine would have no place to live, there are those who would take us in.  And so, was there harm in that “little lie”? Of course.  Might it also create a change for the better?  Possibly. But was it worth it?  Not to me.

©2011