Friday, October 21, 2011

It's simple.

Years ago, I read a long essay by an author I admire, a writer whose work touched me, made me think and made me laugh. The author is someone very few people have heard of, Mark Harris, and he isn't considered "serious" because his most famous books were about baseball.

If you're interested, here is the obituary "The New York Times" published when Harris died in 2007.

Back to the essay. In it, Harris was incensed. Not because his book "Bang the Drum Slowly" was passed over by The Book of the Month Club, but because the book that beat his out was hailed as "easy to read." As if ease were a criterion for literature and thinking.

As a society we have placed simple on a pedestal.

If it's not simple, it can't be good.

Unfortunately most sticky problems can't be reduced to simplicity.

Sloganeering can be motivating but without intelligent plumbing and processes behind it, it can also be glib and empty.

My point is that there's a difference between something being simple and something being presented in a simple, understandable manner.

Just recently I bought a new television set. I finally got rid of my black and white Philco and replaced it with a shiny new flat screen.

As I have said before, I toss nickels around like manhole covers. That is, I don't take spending money lightly. So I tried to find out information about various TV sets. I didn't want to make a bad decision.

All the sites I went to online tried to make the process simple for me. They made it so simple, in fact, that they were completely devoid of relevant information. After weeks of shopping, I still felt like I was pissing into the wind.

It was all so simple.

So simple it was empty.

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