I read an article about simplicity in photography from Ken Rockwell that was humorously well written. Up until the 1980’s, cameras were becoming more and more simple – everything from exposure to focus was being automated and allowed the photographer to stop thinking about technique and think about the subject of his pictures. Great pictures came forth. Photographers could concentrate on their pictures and not their cameras. After all, cameras serve the pictures, it’s not pictures that serve the camera. Then in the 90’s, to sell more cameras, companies began adding “junk” features. They had run out of useful features to automate, so they made new ones up. Now 20 years later, we’re left with a mess of cameras that no one knows how to use well. Everyone wastes they’re time messing with their cameras instead of taking their pictures. And worse yet, they think to get better pictures, they need the next newest camera with a zillion megapixels because of the next newest junk feature that will actually just distract them more from simply taking the picture. Interestingly enough, one of the most expensive, most desired, highest quality cameras built today (Leica from Germany) is also the simplest. Go figure.
Apple has done the same thing in computing. If there were two words to summarize the Mac purpose I would say them to be “stylishly simple.” They make it stylish to be simple! Just look at their designs. They take out everything that doesn’t need to be there and what does need to be there has purpose. Even the fact that they’ve used a one-button mouse since the dawn of computer time shows this purpose. Their stores are so intentionally simple that all attention goes towards the product, costumer and employees. Everything they do is in an effort to serve their purpose of making things as simple and stylish as possible. (One could argue making boatloads of money is their purpose- I couldn’t really argue that. But they do it by purposefully being stylishly simple.) Even their operating system and programs that are made to run on the Mac serve this purpose. They are easy and simple to use. They don’t have extra garbage that get in the way and distract you from your purpose while using the Mac. You see, Apple took a bite out of the fruit of the knowledge of good and evil. Simple purpose – good. Too many purposes – bad.
In music it’s the same way. Many times, the more you try to do in one song, the less you actually accomplish and the more of a wash it becomes. The main theme from the film Jurassic Park is in a rotation of music I use as background prayer/devotional music. In the most powerful and emotional section of this music, do you know what’s happening? The instruments are all playing the same thing. That’s it. Simple. They’re not off doing they’re own thing, they’re all playing the main theme. And it’s deeply moving.
In just about every creative work of which I can think, if something isn’t working right, or there’s something that keeps tripping you up, chances are it doesn’t belong and needs to be removed. Pronto. Take out everything that’s not necessary (and that’s a lot of stuff).
Those who do something well do it well because it’s their purpose. They don’t let the details and minutia get in the way of the purpose. The details serve the purpose, not the other way around. If the details ever get in the way, they get removed, not the purpose.
God also has a purpose and He sent His only Son Jesus with a purpose: to seek and save the lost. When He came to earth, it wasn’t with a huge procession and great fanfare – that wouldn’t have served His purpose. He came humbly, the perfect representation of God and His love for us. When He taught, it was with simple stories and illustrations from everyday life with one point at a time. Jesus, his words and deeds – His very essence – is the perfect simplification of the Father in human form. And His simple obedience to God led to the greatest single miracle of all: reconciliation between God and mankind.
Jesus gave us one of the most powerful statements on how we can and should simplify our lives. He reduced it all to one simple phrase- easy to remember! He knew that we far too often over-complicate things, worrying about finances, relationships, ministry, the future, our families, our jobs, etc. In relation to these things, Jesus said “But seek first his [God’s] kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” Mt 6:33.
That’s it. Simple. Stylish (one could say). Powerful. It communicates everything it should and nothing it shouldn’t. It’s not about all these other things, it’s about seeking the Kingdom of God and His Righteousness. Don’t over complicate things this year. Make this your number one resolution. Keep it simple.