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It's Really Not That Simple

...though of course we wish it was...

By C. Rommial ButlerPublished 2 years ago 4 min read
A painting by the Master of the Fertility of the Egg

Simplex sigillum veri.

Best translation: simplicity is the seal of truth.

Modern watered-down translation: the simplest answer is the best answer.

But it’s not and it has never been. There has been a reduction in our collective ability to assimilate complexity. It is due to the reduction of information to soundbites, memes, slogans, propaganda. Yes, this serves to mobilize people when split second decisions need to be made, but if it is used consistently in moments when time is idle—for instance, to sell useless baubles and make a profit, or to keep people from questioning the powers that be while they rape and plunder the earth—it leaves us all the more ill prepared for that moment when such mobilization is necessary. To the point that we will inevitably make not only bad decisions, but the absolute worst possible decision. I’ve been watching this happen on the geopolitical stage for a decade now.

Nietzsche: “The criterion of truth lies in the enhancement of the feeling of power.”

In other words, we value that as true which “empowers” us. That doesn’t make it true in any objective way, though it doesn’t necessarily mean it isn’t true. It just means we tend to value it as true because it makes us feel good.

Hence why the masses are so easy to manipulate with their own preconceived biases. Reference Machiavelli’s declaration that the most important thing for a Prince to demonstrate is a belief in the religion of his subjects. He doesn’t have to believe a word of it. He must only convince his subjects that he does. Then, he can pretty much do whatever he wants, so long as he can adequately maintain the facade.

Nietzsche goes even further, though, attacking even the notion that the assimilation of complexity by the thinker is valid:

“ “True”—from the standpoint of sentiment—is that which most provokes sentiment (“I”); from the standpoint of thought—is that which gives thought the greatest sensation of strength; from the standpoint of touch, sight, and hearing—is that which calls forth the greatest resistance.

Thus it is the highest degrees of activity which awaken belief in regard to the object, in regard to its “reality”. The sensation of strength, struggle, and resistance convince the subject that there is something which is being resisted.”

And isn’t there something after all? Of course there is. We may endlessly, hopelessly misidentify and misunderstand it. But there is something there. Worst of all, we may identify and understand it well, even perfectly, and still find ourselves necessarily opposed to it. This is the worst outcome for those in the sentiment category. In the thought category it allows us to cultivate a careful indifference—if we can avoid it, we are free to keep thinking. In the tangible world, though, it means war. The sentimental cannot cope with the idea that their sentiment is powerless to prevent this.

In this respect, then, the simplest answer is not always the best answer, as the simplest answer is all too often that we need this gut feeling, this intuition, this higher power, to guide us to an answer on which we refuse to take the time to ruminate. Whether we believe in a higher power or not, it seems absurd if not outright dangerous to think that such a power—by most accounts a benevolent force—should have granted us free will and an ever-burgeoning consciousness which can assimilate complexity only to have us fall in line to obey a course of action that involves the abrogation of thought and volition.

I do not believe in a higher power. I sense and seek to cultivate an inner power that forever reaches for the heights. Better to die climbing the mountain alone than to live standing in line for gruel, staring at my feet, wishing I was dead.

I know it’s not the same for everyone, but that’s the point. Those who enjoy standing in line, automating consciousness through social convention and moral tradition, dancing to the beat of whatever drum… are still free to do so regardless of what I decide to do with myself.

However, all too often they chain others to themselves when it would be better for all concerned to allow those others—the eternal other—the freedom to wander the wastes beyond the city walls. For it has occurred time and again throughout history that once that freedom is granted, the eternal other returns with something valuable—beneficial to all—that would not otherwise have been attained.

As for the eternal other, we tend to make the equal and opposite mistake: we seek to conform so that we will suffer less. Inevitably, we suffer more, but even that suffering is done out of love, and becomes a spur toward the fulfillment of our destiny.

The moral of this story is to never conform in order to escape the suffering that you experience for being different. Be different. Wander the wastes. Assimilate complexity. Like any endeavor worth accomplishing, it starts out difficult and ends up looking easy to the outside observer.

Let them observe. Maybe it will pique their curiosity and inspire them to assimilate some complexity of their own.

A painting by the Master of the Fertility of the Egg

Other philosophical essays by C. Rommial Butler:


About the Creator

C. Rommial Butler

C. Rommial Butler is a writer, musician and philosopher from Indianapolis, IN. His works can be found online through multiple streaming services and booksellers.

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  • Melissa Ingoldsbyabout a year ago

    I saw your agony in the mountain top excerpt, it filled me with a dread that just tears you inside. I see that this, and I read your essay twice as yesterday I had an all day migraine and couldn’t concentrate, but I see that breaking through these mundane patterns of conformity and societal problems of how we’re supposed to feel “outside” in public verses how we really feel… it’s a uncomfortable feeling that we know we have to keep moving forward with. The feeling that we are not truly in control of how we feel and act because of how we are judged and perceived as a whole. It reminds me of a story I heard of a rich woman in the middle of a shopping mall who just started screaming and throwing her bags about. Everyone says, “oh she just went crazy.” I think these people just wake up finally and see the rat maze finally. Just like in my favorite movie My Dinner With Andre. I hope you watch this. I personally feel like living dangerously and being yourself fully gives people an offended air because they are not able to understand how they can break the glass and do this themselves. They may even believe it’s a selfish and arrogant thing to be free from society in this regard. Anyway, your essay posed a very introspective question with a few agonizing answers. Hearted! If you’re free heres one of mine

  • I love being different though at times it's so difficult to put up with what people have to say

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