Questioning Blimix

"Tell me about simplicity."

Simplicity is a way of life. It involves finding a path that brings one's morals and one's happiness into harmony. This strengthens the morals, such that abiding by them is easy and rewarding.

For example, I seek to make people (including myself) happy. Toward this end, I abide by a moral code that warns against lying, on the grounds that the pursuit of happiness requires the making of informed decisions. Falsifying someone's information leaves them ill-equipped to handle reality.

Many people are happy to accept that in general, but are more than willing to make exceptions when they think that someone will react better to a lie than to the truth. "No, honey, of course I've never cheated on you." "I really enjoyed this evening." "I loved the lemon meringue pie."

The problem is that the consequences of the lie continue for far longer than is covered by the foresight of the liar. Maybe her boyfriend is happier that night, thinking that she is faithful, but six months later, when they're engaged and she's still fooling around, is he better off than he would have been otherwise? How about when he finally discovers her infidelity, and they break up with far more grief and bitterness than would have occurred had it happened much earlier? They are both worse off for her lie, yet she somehow thought it was okay.

The simple fact is that most people are lousy at predicting the long-term results of any action. But they don't stop to take that into account. This is where a person of simplicity differs from them. Simple people must know themselves. They must know their limits, and know when they do not have enough predictive power to justify a moral breach. They will find, if their perspective is sufficiently keen, that initiating deception is almost never warranted; a situation that would justify it probably will not happen within their lifetimes.

Watch the exact wording there. The initiation of deception may not be justified, but deception in defense of one's self from others' lies, threats, or attacks is perfectly justified. This has the problem though, that lies still complicate one's life, whether or not they are justified. They have to be guarded carefully, accounted for in all future interactions, and they may still fail and bring ruin upon the deceiver. And they still harm the recipient. Deserved or not, harm is ugly, and those who have any love for their fellow human beings will avoid causing it when they can.

Therefore, a person seeking a life of simplicity will strive to never be put into a situation that would demand harming anybody, directly or indirectly, justified or not.

Easily said. But how easily done? This is a cruel, vicious world. People lie, cheat, steal, injure, and kill. Even outside of Congress. How can we exist without having to invoke our defenses?

That depends on one's capabilities. There is a very simple, very old solution available to anyone sufficiently devoted to simplicity: Monastic life. If you get away from the people who complicate their lives and those of everyone around them, it becomes easy to treat everyone in a simple, straightforward and respectful manner, to be completely honest and to know that your honesty will be appreciated and returned. This doesn't literally have to involve a monastery. It could be a commune of you and your idealistic friends. It could be Galt's Gulch. It could, if you can live without social interaction, be just you, existing as a hermit.

Of course this has huge problems. There is a tremendous amount of Beauty in the world, and a large proportion of it involves interacting with people. Most people are complicated. If you seal yourself off from them, you lose access to many forms of Beauty. Mind you, this is not reasoning that could destroy the monastic life, for a human lifetime is limited, and can surely be entirely filled with Beauty, even when cut off from several specific types. But, depending upon one's needs and wishes, certain things that society has to offer may be indispensable. A job, for example. After all, a person with a degree in computer science will have a much easier time writing code or doing tech support to earn money for survival than trying to grow crops, chop lumber, and smelt ore.

So what can you do? If you want to live a simple life within an extremely complicated world, you must be complex.1 You must figure out all that you can about the world, about people, about yourself and your needs. You must act with strength and perseverance, yet keep an open mind, for you shall never know everything. Work to make each individual aspect of your life as simple as you can without sacrificing the rest.

Do not invest yourself emotionally in insincere folk. Find friends who will honor your friendship.

Do not allow yourself to be subjected to rule by those whose judgment you mistrust, if you can help it, for they will force you into compromising actions. This may include parents, work management, and government.2

When you must interact with people who would readily wrong you, do not give them the opportunity. When they are rude, kill them with kindness. (It becomes nearly impossible for them to justify anger, even to themselves, when you are so obviously being unfailingly nice. (Though they may persevere due to an unwillingness to back down, they will almost surely feel silly about it, especially so if there are others watching.))3 Do not expect truth from them; weigh their words as evidence, not as fact. As for violence, look for warning signs and stay alert. Figure out what sorts of things could be said that would set someone off, and make sure not to say them, no matter how appropriate and momentarily satisfying. Still, you can never be fully protected from violence, so have a contingency plan: An escape route, a can of pepper spray, some fast talking, or some martial arts ability may help. Being able to harm your attacker may be unnecessary in an ideal world, but it sure beats living in fear in this one.

Do not depend upon anyone or anything that can be wrongfully manipulated. Politicians, for example, have to depend upon the media, and therefore cannot lead a life of simplicity. A friend who respects you but has no strength is a danger to you, for they can be made to act against their best interest and yours. (And you can use Microsoft products, but do not ever trust them.)

Seek wisdom and perspective. Think ahead.

Retaining simplicity while being subject to society is difficult and dangerous, and requires great independence and foresight. Don't give up on that commune idea too quickly; I have found it very tempting.

All this doesn't sound that simple, does it? Don't worry, I have not been concentrating on the biggest things here. To phrase this in the proper perspective: Be honest, considerate, and kind. You'll get burned occasionally, but it's a better life than screwing over others.


1. Manual: Complexity
2. Note the "if you can help it"! I do not advise defending yourself by arms against the federal government. A bunch of people in Waco, Texas thought they could do that. I think we'll have to see the federal government dismantled peacefully, if it can be accomplished in such a way that we do not lose what protection we have from the tyranny of state governments. Reinstating the U.S. Constitution would probably be a step in the right direction.
3. Or, if you have the ability, showing them a piece of their soul can shock them into submission. (Those who have done it will know what I am talking about.) When their reaction does not matter (as, for example, a customer's reaction matters) or you are sure that they will take it well, feel free to verbally spar with them, if you are so inclined.

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