Gus Cuddy | Essays:

Simplicity and complexity

29 November 2018

Beware simple stories. It’s easier and easier to fall into them these days.

We narrativize things that don’t have a narrative. We retroactively piece together events in our life in ways that aren’t really True, just a yarn we tell ourselves.

Often, simple stories are lies.

The internet is obsessed with these simple stories: everyone likes to feel as if they know everything, can explain it all. Everyone wants to wrap their mind around how A causes B, how B leads to C. It’s easy and linear.

But some things are unknowable. Some things are not simple. Some things are complex, and random, and cannot be summarized.

Life is one of these things. It is complex. It is filled with suffering and pain and sacrifice, but also love and joy and ecstasy. Things happen in life for no reason. Fires burn, people die. There is no Great Master Plan. It is filled with ambiguity and paradoxes and the unknown.

Great art is like life. It is also complex. It explores big questions, and offers multiple right answers. It resists the easy, simple story. It is ambiguous.

But at the same time, there is an elegant simplicity to how great art approaches complexity. It doesn’t obfuscate. Instead it connects and enthralls and takes our breath away.

In a way, this is like life, too. The great Truths in life have an elegant simplicity to them also, amidst the chaos and confusion. When glimpsed, they too can take our breath away, can leave us gaping in awe and feeling Infinite and Total, more ourselves, more in tune with everything and everyone.

But it all lies in the delicate balance between simplicity and complexity, understanding which is where, and not confusing the two.