Dearest Rachel –
I mentioned the other day about that book of humorous epitaphs in my grandparents’ basement; another one that always caught my attention was this one, which could probably describe everyone on earth (or at least, most of us here in the First World):
He was a simple man who died of complicationsAnonymous tombstone
We want simple answers for everything. We don’t have time, or attention, or mental capacity to absorb anything too complex; less so now, in the age of sound bites and short tweets. Give us a solution, now, and keep it to 280 characters, or else I’m never gonna be able to follow it.
There’s something to be said for this. Jesus Himself talked about needing ‘the faith of a child’ in order to come to him (which, at this point, we think and hope is what brought your mom to Him in her last days, as she slipped into her ‘second childhood’). But in order for that to happen, the way as laid out needs to be simple enough for a child to understand how to walk on it.
And so, leaders need to lead by ‘keeping it simple, stupid,’ as the saying goes. They always have to bear in mind that, in order to be followed, their instructions need to be clear to even their most ignorant of followers.
Which is all good and well, except that life isn’t always that simple, and every solution has the potential to generate additional problems of its own. Now, a good and wise leader will take those into account, and make decisions based on those possibilities, in the hope that the final, proper choice can be easily explained and followed. But when the leader is no wiser than his dimmest followers, well… that’s how we get where we are.
There’s a new sickness killing everyone who catches it! No problem, we’ll just have everybody stay indoors until it burns itself out. Can’t catch it if they aren’t in contact with anyone, right? But now people can’t get food, and they’ll starve! Oh, yeah… guess some people will need to go about their duties as usual. But keep everyone except the most essential folks indoors! Weld their apartments shut if you have to, even! But how will they afford to eat? Oh, yeah… well, let’s just give them money from all the taxes we’ve collected. From whom? No one’s out earning any money, since we’ve locked them all up! Uh… well, we’ve got all these billionaires running around, I’m sure we can sock them for something.
That’s just the most obvious, and while I know I should stay away from politics in these letters, it’s the sort of thing that affects our lives here and drives me crazy. Of course, we should cut our leaders a little slack; as wrong as that first sentence turned out to be, nobody knew that at first, and everybody – from the top on down – panicked accordingly. But it didn’t seem, as time went on, that anyone wanted to acknowledge that the starting point wasn’t true, despite the fact that it would seem to be a good thing. We had our simple answers and our simple responses, and we’d be darned if we would change course now.
Setting aside the political, what about the personal? Lonely? No problem! Just get out there and talk to people! About what? About anything, just be yourself! Myself? Who wants to hear about that? Everybody’s wrapped up in their own lives and their own problems, why would they want to hear about me and mine?
Actually, come to think about it, just going out and talking to people should be simple; small talk is a fairly basic thing. It’s just that, sometimes the simple is still not always easy. In a setting where everybody more or less knows everybody else already (such as church, for instance – a great place to find someone who shares your values, after all), most everyone has grouped off into their little social clusters, and breaking into any of them is… well, you were good at this (not to mention, good at finding those who weren’t, and inviting them in), but I’m not. Even if I were, there’s the obvious question as to why I might be trying to inveigle my way into one group or another – whether it’s actually addressed or not, the elephant is already in the room.
In a way, this next week may be a case where at least I can find myself on footing that’s a little less… stratified? Sure, there will be families and other groups, but not everyone will have a complete social circle. Maybe I can strike up a conversation. It probably won’t go much further than that – the Love Boat was nothing more than an advertisement masquerading as a TV show – but hey, socializing is a good first step.
And it’s simple, right?
Anyway, I’ll find out in the next twenty-four or forty-eight hours. Until then, wish me luck, honey… I’m going to need it.