Living a Stupid Simple Life

by Christopher Lovejoy on December 7, 2019

A good life is not a complex or complicated proposition.

One of the greatest pleasures in life is to be unaware of one’s own existence, pleasantly and meaningfully absorbed by interesting sights and sounds, people and places, ideas and insights, rather than self-conscious, unabsorbed, cut off from community and the surrounding world.

Many already know what it takes to live a good life: taking care of their own, while caring for others just a little more than they do themselves. Nothing complex, nothing complicated, at least in essence. Some can also even testify to the fact that they are quite happy or very happy.

Likewise, a simple life, by definition, is not a complex proposition; even if things tend to get a little complicated, a genuine faith usually lives to see another day, but a stupid simple life? What could I possibly mean by living a stupid simple life? What on Earth is a stupid simple life?

Before I can talk about stupid simple, I need to talk about stupid, and to extract some very real value from stupidity, and yes, believe it or not, there is a modicum of value to be extracted from stupidity, and maybe not in the way you think, and so what is the saving grace of stupid?

You’ve likely heard it said that “stupid is as stupid does” and in bringing this up here, I can point to at least three ways in which you would likely not wish to be seen as stupid: lacking intelligence; lacking (or marked by lack of) intellectual acuity; and devoid of good sense or judgment.

Now this is where things get a little tricky.

The relativity of stupidity is clear in view of those who lack the intelligence to hold their own in life, in view of those who lack the intellectual acuity to hold their own in a conversation, or in view of those who seem devoid of good sense or judgment when push comes to shove.

In all such cases (and here, let me be quick to point out that I am by no means exempt from this), “stupid is as stupid lacks.” I would even go so far as to say that it’s in the nature of being human to be susceptible to bearing painfully awkward moments of stupidity in view of others.

Maybe, just maybe, any apparent stupidity is actually an opening, an opportunity to care for another just a little more than you do yourself ~ in other words, a very brief test of character to see which way you polarize and prioritize your interests in relation to the interests of others.

Having set this context, consider this meaning of stupid: a state of mental numbness. Now who has not felt a little numb from keeping a busy schedule? From doing repetitive work for months, if not years on end? Or in the wake of juggling too many expectations and demands?

Chronic fatigue can numb the mind, as can a mess of chronic stress in distress, or even the stress of mess in eustress (too much of a good thing is never a good thing), not to mention a lack of quality sleep.

Truth be told, there are no limits to how stupid we can be (or become), but wherein lies the value to be extracted from stupid simple? More to the point, what value might be found in a stupid simple moment?

Consider this distinction: (1) “keep it simple, stupid;” and (2) “keep it stupid simple.”

Which of these two resonate with you? Perhaps both do, but which resonates more? The reason I’m asking is because the first k.i.s.s. reflects someone who tends towards being of service to the self, whereas the second k.i.s.s. reflects someone tending to be of service to another.

In using “keep it simple, stupid,” I’m sucking up the light of wisdom for myself; in using “keep it stupid simple,” I’m giving up the light of widsom for another. In a nutshell, in any negotiation with stupidity, the choice seems clear: suck it up or give it up (and here, I’m not saying “give up!”).

In a “keep it simple, stupid” moment, stupid is as stupid does. In a “keep it stupid simple” moment, stupid is as stupid lacks. The first will try to suck it up regardless of others (what can I do you for?); the second will try to give it up for the sake of others (what can I do for you?)

I favor the second kiss (keep it stupid simple, giving it up for the sake of others) for the simple reason that, on some level, I am you and you are me and we are one. As mentioned, any apparent stupidity is an opening, an opportunity to care, to care for another just a little more than we do ourselves, a test of character to see which way we polarize and prioritize our interests in relation to the interests of another.

In other words, any apparent lack of intelligence, lack of intellectual acuity, or lack of good sense or judgment is an opening, an opportunity to step in or step up in service to another, while being mindful of how this action (or reaction) might make us look, sound, or feel afterward.

Keeping it stupid simple is not unlike keeping it simple but with a twist. Who doesn’t want to keep it simple when doing so keeps the matter at hand from multiplying endlessly or needlessly out of control? Correct me if I’m wrong, but no one cares to get lost in complication. Of course, complexity is a whole other ball of wax, and this is where the value of stupid simple comes into play.

On the one hand, complexity is simply the quality of being intricate and compounded, and here, computer programmers know exactly what I’m talking about. On the other hand, complexity is also the beginnings of complication, that is, any development that complicates a situation.

That is to say, any act, event, or process that makes a situation harder to understand ~ usually a complex process, but then, any simple act or event can all too quickly and suddenly and easily tip the balance of an already complex situation into a very complicated situation indeed.

In a conversation or discussion, have you ever been tempted to say, in all sincerity: “I’m sorry, but I’m having a stupid simple moment”? It just means that you’ve been confronted by an act or event that is suddenly complicating the situation in which you find yourself to the point where you can no longer understand what’s going on. It’s a confession, not of stupidity, but of fallibility.

I have a stupid simple moment, and if I fail to call it out where necessary, I run the risk of appearing stupid. In retrospect, I can see that if no action was taken, it was simply because it was not in my power to do (fallibility), in contrast to “no action taken because I simply did not know any better” (ignorance) or “no action taken because I knew, but I did not do” (ineptitude).

All these forms of apparent stupidity can be addressed and resolved in the heat of the moment by calling them out, but this requires awareness, acceptance, responsibility, and assertiveness, any one of which can be undermined by fatigue, illness, distress, or feelings of unworthiness.

Complex? Yes. Complicated? Yes. Hopeless? Not if you can keep it straight in your mind or heart to know which is which as and when you’re faced with evidence of your own fallibility, ignorance, or ineptitude. Easier said than done, I know. Especially in the heat of the moment.

What complicates this even more is a faulty memory. Was it ignorance or ineptitude? Was no action taken because I simply did not know any better or was no action taken because I knew but did not do? Did I know, at least a little? Did I know enough? If no, is this not ignorance?

In view of fallibility, ignorance, and ineptitude, what complicates the task of distinguishing between them even more are those who do not, can not, or will not keep it straight in their minds or hearts which is which. Needless to say, this generates all sorts of conflict in life and work.

As this world grows ever more complex (and complicated thereby), it becomes ever harder for us to keep up with apparent stupidity. This is a challenge that has not yet been elaborated outright ~ sensed, but not articulated well enough to keep everyone feeling safe and secure.

So far, we’ve seen the value in stupid: it alerts us to various forms of lack as openings or opportunities to fill in a gap and be of service while giving away the benefit of the doubt when and where it is not clear whether an apparent stupidity is fallibility, ignorance, or ineptitude.

We have also seen the value in stupid simple: it alerts us to a moment of fallibility in the face of a complex, complicating situation; in view of an ever more complex, complicating world, it also alerts us to a culturally unacknowledged need: a retreat from complexity and complication.

Think of a stupid simple day off or a stupid simple vacation. Nothing complex. Nothing complicated. Just some stupid simple time for yourself away from the complexities and complications of work or life. In this light, let us try to capture the applicability of stupid simple in its totality.

I cordially invite you to read the items in this list aloud, slowly and deliberately, while bearing in mind how you might apply them to yourself and your life and work, extracting apparent value as you go; in so doing, see if you can come up with some of your own stupid simple items:

a stupid simple moment
a stupid simple routine
a stupid simple pleasure
a stupid simple practice
a stupid simple jig or job
a stupid simple mindflow
a stupid simple workflow
a stupid simple day off
a stupid simple vacation
a stupid simple staycation
a stupid simple sabbatical
a stupid simple recovery
a stupid simple retirement
a stupid simple lifestyle
a stupid simple life

You could in fact have, do, take, welcome, explore, or create any one of these on your own, but keep in mind that others, whether you know them yet or not, might also be looking for a stupid simple way out of a complex and complicating situation, either from life or from work.

But wait, a stupid simple lifestyle? A stupid simple life? Aren’t these a bit of a stretch? Perhaps, but not if you’ve been pummelled relentlessly¬†by all manner of complex and complicating situations.

The appeal of a stupid simple lifestyle leading to a stupid simple life (if desired) is found in spending time doing stupid simple things, things that have great value for the stupid simple reason that they offer respites that favor rest, relaxation, release, relief, and (possibly) recovery.

Now what sorts of things might have such great value? Before I address this all-important, all-too-important question, I feel I must first take a detour through sin, or, if you prefer, vice, in contrast to virtue, and do so with an orientation that remains in profound service to others.

At the start of this detour, let me be clear about what I mean by a full recovery.

A full recovery from the demands of complexity and complication is one where I feel ready, willing, and able to distinguish between fallibility, ignorance, and ineptitude, and to discern which is which alongside engaging an ever growing array of complex and complicating situations.

In a world that grows ever more complicated by the day, such skills are indispensable.

Now this is where the influence of vice or sin comes into play, and here, I do not cast judgment on anyone so as to keep the discussion clean and clear, broaching this potentially volatile subject with the intention of plumbing the depths, from an in-depth first person perspective.

Let’s start with a brief distinction.

A minor vice (a venal sin) is forgiveable in a way that a major vice (mortal sin) is not. If, in soothing the pain of a profound loss, I gorge myself stupid (and here, please understand that I can gorge on apparent food for the mind and spirit, as well as the body), this is forgiveable in a way that killing someone in a fit of rage is not, even if the one killed is found to have committed a horrific crime.

From the point of view of no action taken, someone drowning in my midst might be understandable in a way that letting someone drown is not, and here, let us not be too quick to restrain or restrict our knowledge of drowning to drowning in water (or some other liquid substance).

At this point, let us add to our understanding of responsibility:

subjective version

fallibility: no action taken, as this was not in my power to do
ignorance: no action taken, because I did not know any better
ineptitude: no action taken, because I knew, but I did not do
amorality: no action taken, because I knew, but did not care to do

collective version

fallibility: no action taken, as this was not in our power to do
ignorance: no action taken, because we did not know any better
ineptitude: no action taken, because we knew, but we did not do
amorality: no action taken, because we knew, but did not care to do

Just as the line can blur between fallibility and ignorance (thinking I didn’t know any better is not as strong as knowing I didn’t know any better), and just as the line can blur between ignorance and ineptitude (I knew something, but was it enough to do something?), so too can the line be blurred between ineptitude and amorality (“we knew, but did not do; we cared, but did not care enough to do”).

In tracking these excuses ~ in having the wherewithal to be receptive, reflective, responsive, and assertive 24/7 ~ it’s important to bear in mind that complex situations can quickly, suddenly, and easily get out of hand (more complicated than can be handled), and this, unfortunately, can happen even at the best of times, without the undermining influence of fatigue, illness, distress, or feelings of unworthiness, but when vice (or sin) is added to the mix as an undermining influence, complication rises to a whole new level, and the moralists among us know this all too well.

A long succession of minor vices committed might be the equivalent of one major vice committed, but the effect is the same: less response-ability, caring less about moral excuse, being less capable of discerning their use, all of which only adds more complication to complexity.

As an exercise, I cordially invite you to scan the following list of vices (sins) to see which among them you view as minor (venal) and major (potentially mortal). That is to say, which of these grab you as being fatal to your capacity to excuse and to your ability to discern?

sloth / gluttony / lust / greed / wrath / envy / Pride

reference: The Seven Deadly Sins

Consider that each of these moral presentations has a demonic face and an angelic face.

Where the demon of sloth would have us be careless with quality and vitality, the angel of sloth would have us be carefree with our quality and vitality; where the demon of gluttony would have us gorge ourselves, the angel of gluttony would have us binge on all manner of delight.

Where the demon of lust would have us be indiscriminate with the fire of desire to possess or be possessed, the angel of lust would have us be discriminate with a desire to release or be released; where the demon of greed would have us desire more than we need or deserve regardless of cause, the angel of greed would have us desire as much as we need or deserve in service to a higher cause.

Where the demon of wrath would have us destroy one another in service to self with passive-aggressive intent, the angel of wrath would have us expand in service to other with receptive-assertive intent; where the demon of envy would have us spitefully deprive each other of glory and success, the angel of envy would have us playfully alert each other of a desire for glory and success.

Last, but certainly not least (nudge nudge, wink wink), where the demon of pride would have us be more and better than any other, the angel of pride would have us be just as good as any other.

We are all, without exception, if only in the dark recesses of our hearts, tempted by demons and guided by angels. In light of stupid simple, for the sake of stupid simple, let us beware the demons, extending a warm welcome to the angels lest we be swayed unduly by the demons.

In so doing, we are better placed to instinctively or intuitively distinguish between all of the reasons that we might use to excuse ourselves vis à vis those sudden slippery moments of apparent stupidity.

Now before I give a taste of great value in living a stupid simple life, let me distinguish between (a) a simple life, and (b) a stupid simple life in view of too much complexity and complication in life.

A simple life, by definition, is a life with few parts, one that has never seen much complexity and complication. A simple life is a life of need and desire reduced to the bare essentials, where involvement in life is happily confined to meeting the bare essentials of life in love with light.

A stupid simple life, by contrast, is one that has known, seen, and/or felt the burden of too much complexity and complication. Such a life is a paring down of need and desire to the bare essentials, where involvement in life is necessarily constrained to meeting the bare essentials.

Think quiet walks at dawn. Think afternoon delight. Think lazy afternoon naps on warm breezy days. Think strolls along the beach in view of the setting sun. Easy come, easy go. A little reading here, a little de-clutter there. A little singing here, a little dancing there. Greeting someone you haven’t seen in a long, long time. In bringing such simplicity to life, what’s not to like, what’s not to love?

No more preoccupations with presence, promise, power, purpose, passion, prestige.

In living the stupid simple life, let this be a mantra: “as I drink, I savor every sip; as I eat, I relish every bite; as I rest, I welcome every sigh; in kissing complexity and complication good-bye to live and love a stupid simple life, I find myself knowing myself all over again.” In light of living a stupid simple life, this Spanish proverb got it right: how beautiful it is to do nothing, and then rest afterward.

Ahh, time for a rest. Thank you for reading. Have yourself a stupid simple day.

/

Addendum

a list of curious things
for a stupid simple day

a restful, refreshing sleep
a quiet morning at the crack of dawn
a brief meditation, eyes closed
a fluid dance, while prepping tea
a warm cup of tea, sipped and savored
a reading that informs and inspires
a stretch routine (yoga, tai chi, qi gong)
a casual stroll at an early morning hour
a sunrise that takes your breath away
a coconut water banana berry smoothie
a call to meet and greet your calling
a flow session punctuated by breaks
a playful pantomime, just because
a moment of intimacy with the deep now
a reflection on intimacy, inside a journal
a large bowl of mango chunks, chilled
a spate of children’s laughter in the distance
a leisurely trip to the farmer’s market
a real moment with a warm, kind, gentle soul
a basket full of large almost ripe avocadoes
a fruit or vegetable you’ve never seen before
a juicy crone beaming with pride
a tune that makes you wanna dance
a sudden request to bag or box
a rare stupid simple moment realized
a knapsack full of fresh produce
a leisurely walk home along a scenic route
a chance encounter with a lovely neighbour
a fading light as the day draws to a close
a contemplation of future bright with promise
a meal of raw living foods, an hour or more
a love note sent to someone you cherish
a blessed moment of silence in solitude
a comfy pillow on a comfy mattress
a dream of love, with joy to share
a dream of joy, with love to share
a restful, refreshing sleep …

/

how we live our moments is,
of course,
how we live our days

~ yours