Jessie Sampter, an influential educator who was born in 1883 in New York City, and who contracted polio at the age of 13, once said,
“Simplicity is the Peak of Civilization.”
A concept that, at it’s core, seems easy enough to follow, yet so few of us actually practice. Sly and the Family Stone, in 1968, popularized the concept even further in their funk masterpiece “Sing a Simple Song”
I’m livin’ livin’ livin’ life with all its ups and downs
I’m givin’ givin’ givin’ love and smilin’ at the frowns
You’re in trouble when you find it’s hard for you to smile
A simple song might make it better for a little while
Rearrange the word “Simple”, eliminate the “p”...and you get a “Smile”...there is a smile in simple!
Which leads me to 1994, the year one of the greatest movies ever produced hit the theatres, “Forrest Gump”. If you’ve seen the film (which is hard to imagine that anyone has not...rent it today if you haven’t) it would be hard not to leave the movie thinking that Forrest was just plain clueless.
The truth...he was a real LIFE genius! I emphasize the word LIFE. Being the simpleton that he was it wasn’t hard for Forrest to adjust when things didn’t go as planned. How many of us would react differently from Forrest under similar circumstances?
Born with a spine that caused him to wear leg braces at a very young age, and with an IQ of 75, Gump never complains about his plight. Why? Because of the understanding of simplicity in all facets of his life. One of his greatest assets was the ability to use hyper-focus. By concentrating on one simple task at a time Forrest was able to accomplish what he set out to do. “Multi-Tasking” (how I loath the word...and concept) only interferes with the brains ability to filter out irrelevant items from our lives. Forrest was great at keeping the complexity out of his life. A complex, over-burdened life style is very often our own doing. Focus only on a few things...identify what is really important in our lives...and eliminate everything else.
There are many (good) habits that, if practiced, will bring us closer to a true-form simple life. Start by evaluating the things that give value to others and yourself. How much time is required for each of these. Narrow the list to five or six things. Purge life of those tangible goods that do nothing but take up space and get in the way. Clean your darn desk off for starters...you can only effectively work on one thing at a time anyway. Some of us may even need to learn a new word...NO!...but expressed in a kind manner. Go visit your loved ones and spend time with others that you deeply care about. Carve out time each day to meditate , pray, and have coffee with a friend. What made Forrest so special is that everything that he did was either good, pure, heroic, and successful. Success is not measured by how much money you have. Success can be measured by how many people you have made a positive impact on in their lives. Avoid the traits and habits some of the other characters in the movie portrayed...like Jenny (Forrest’s long-time girl friend) and Lieutenant Dan (Forrest’s field leader in Vietnam).
Jenny and Lieutenant Dan always got hung up on their past. Forrest, by contrast, stood strong and always ventured into the opportunities that came his way. There are way too many Jenny’s and Lt. Dan’s in the world...and not enough Gump’s. Forrest knew who he was. A simple man with a simple plan. Always. Which brings me to my favorite dialog scene in the movie:
Jenny: Do you ever dream, Forrest, about who you’re gonna’ be?
Forrest: Who I’m Gonna’ be?
Forrest: Aren’t...aren’t I gonna’ be me?
And... “That’s all I have to say about that.”