Simplicity and Complexity Group Guide

Volume IX, Number III

Artwork by Amy Liu

Do we live in an age of complexity? Why is it so difficult to appreciate the simple joys of life? Young writers and artists around the world grapple with balancing these concepts in the modern era. Through writing, poetry, and artwork, they explore the busy nature of our daily lives, the purity of nature, and the rich harmony of collaboration.

1. For this issue’s Big Question, the editors ask “Why Is It Difficult to Enjoy the Simple Joys of Life?” Caroline Hochman responds, drawing on Zen philosophy, transcendentalism, and her personal experiences of rustic living. She concludes that we often sabotage our own fulfillment by allowing superficial goals to cloud our lives, obscuring the true meaning of happiness. Think about Caroline’s experiences of the Canadian wilderness. Have you ever had the opportunity to step outside your everyday life and explore what is truly important to you? Write down three things you think are key to your happiness. What complicates your ability to appreciate these aspects of life? What kind of environments or activities help you see and pursue them clearly?

2. In his Feature article, Abraham Weitzman shares the complex nature of something many of us take for granted — speaking. He explains what it means to be nonverbal and invites us to understand what communication is like for those who cannot voice their thoughts out loud or through body language. Throughout Abraham’s life, interacting with others has been challenging. He writes, “Having difficulties like these would lead many people to give up, retreating to isolation amongst a crowd. It is simpler and less of an emotional risk. However, the risk is completely worth it; the reward is indescribably valuable.” Do you struggle with anything that seems to come easily to others? How have you attempted to overcome those hurdles? Do you feel that your friends and family are understanding? How can they make an effort to empathize with your struggle? How can you make an effort to relate to others who may struggle with something that is simple for you?

3. This issue’s Interfaith Connections department features writers from New Zealand, Massachusetts, and Maine, all of whom explore the simultaneous simplicity and complexity of practices that are crucial to our lives: self-understanding, kindness, and collaboration. Read their pieces and think about your own experiences. Does listening to your inner voice come easily for you? What about relating to and working with others? List five actions you think are essential to being true to your own individuality, and five actions you think are essential to being kind to others. Share your ideas with a friend and discuss how you can incorporate these actions into your daily life.