Simple is anything but easy. The two sound deceptively similar but, in fact, couldn’t be more different. It’s not a case of etymology, it’s philosophy.
Easy is effortless and presents few difficulties. Easy means no sweat, no struggle. It requires neither investment nor commitment, and is as painless as the promise of endless love to a one-night stand. Easy is when the outcome is disproportionate to effort, like the winning of a bet with a child. Easy is cooking a one-pot meal when you’re short of time and energy, and throw in whatever ingredients you have at hand. Easy is when you’re not looking for a career and will take any job that fills the days and pays the bills.
Keeping things simple sits on the other side of the fence, the enormously complicated, contradictory side. It satisfies the soul but can frustrate the intellect; it can be rewarding but maddening. Leading a simple life is a lot of hard work, and requires stripping away heaps of dross to get to the gold.
Because simple is the elimination of everything except what really matters. Think I’m exaggerating? I’m not. Consider the art of doing nothing. It sounds simple, but is anything but easy. Not just because you never know when you’ve finished, but because it requires a master’s degree in patience, persistence and mindfulness. As anyone who has tried meditation knows, it’s as difficult to force the body to stay still as it is the mind. We all yearn for peace and quiet and a moment to ourselves when we’re working our butts off at office or at home and, yet, when we do get the chance to sit still, by ourselves, we want to do everything but that. We want to move around and chat, check on something in the cupboard or make the phone call we didn’t earlier. Sitting still makes our back ache.
Eating simply is just as tough. We’re conditioned to toss in the chillies and pickle and take everything with a pinch of salt. It’s near impossible for us to eat—and enjoy—a minimal meal, where every dish has been distilled down to its core essence. It can be done, of course, but only when we or our cook have put in years of practice and experience in creating simple dishes that are so technically perfect that they need no condiments to boost them. That’s not exactly simple, is it?
The same thing goes with attire. Pulling on the clothes, jewellery and shoes is easy. Knowing how to cut out the superfluous bits and cull out the best look for us is not. It’s an endeavour that needs time, taste and a strong sense of aesthetics. Much like fancy cooking. The more you slave away at the stove (or at the dressing table), the faster you realize that creating a work of simple beauty requires skill and effort. But don’t give up. Remember what the wise man said: Only those who have the patience to do simple things perfectly ever acquire the skill to do difficult things easily.