more complex the world, the more simplicity we need.
could learn something from the end-to-end design principle
appropriated by network architects in the early 1980s. End-to-end
design keeps the network itself as simple as possible and
places the intelligence and complexity at the edges of the
to AOL.com. What do you notice first? Its simplicity. Its
easy to get around, with gathering places for everyone yet
with personalized and specialized components of incredible
intricacy and complexity. The end-to-end principle facilitates
maximum freedom and scope while preserving a commons
where everyone can find commonness.
and scientists have been articulating the end-to-end principle
for millennia. Einstein used only three letters, one symbol,
and one numeral to unlock the mysteries of the universe: e=mc2.
Actor Robert Mitchum maintained that the secret of good acting
was to avoid bumping into the furniture. Novelist Virginia
Woolf said that the most difficult thing in writing fiction
was getting a character from one room to the next. Pianist/conductor
Herbert von Karajan says that theres only six things
a conductor should tell the orchestra: too loud; too soft;
too late; too soon; too fast; too slow. Philip Pullman won
Englands Carnegie Medal in 1996 for childrens
literature. In his acceptance speech he argued that, There
are some themes, some subjects, too large for adult fiction;
they can only be dealt with adequately in a childrens
mastery of end-to-end mechanics, there can be no true artistry.
If a scientist cant express a finding in a simple, elegant
way, it cant be true. If you can choose two paths, and
only one is congruent with end-to-end, choose that one. An
ancient Chinese philosophical text by Han Feizi narrates an
exchange between an emperor and a painter. Which subjects
are the hardest and easiest to depict? Dogs are difficult,
the artist replies, demons are easy. Simple, familiar
things are hardest to get right. Its much easier to
portray mysterious entities and monstrosities.
is an exercise in depicting more dogs and horses
than demons and goblins. Irish poet
Patrick Kavanagh writes about two kinds of simplicity, the
simplicity of going away and the simplicity of returning.
The last is the ultimate in sophistication. In the final
simplicity we dont care whether we appear foolish or
not. We talk of things that earlier would embarrass. We are
satisfied with being ourselves, however small.
My theology is getting thicker and more complex the older
I get, but my faith is becoming simpler. My faith is crystallizing
around some very simple end-to-end words. One word in particular:
Jesus. Here are some recent end-to-end ideas.
Discipleship can be expressed in eight, simple words, all
spoken by Jesus: see me, follow me, be me, go me.
The whole shebang of Christian theology can be expressed in
six words based on three different biblical stories: (1) Come
Down (Justification); (2) Come Out (Sanctification);
(3) Come Home (Glorification).
Florence Nightingale said that the whole of religion is in
two sets of four one-syllable words: Gods Lo,
it is I and in our response, Here am I, Lord.
The whole-truth-and-nothing-but-the-truth of a missional church
can be expressed in four monosyllabic words: Be there with
all. (See my upcoming book, Jesus Drives Me Crazy! [Zondervan]).
as theres no such thing as a simple cell,
theres no such thing as a simple word. If
every word can be a book, then the thin, simple words write
the longest books. Why? Because its the simple words
that unify the complexities. My only question: Why are lifes
first, simple words the last things in life we get to?
upon a time a woman set out to buy a silver soup ladle. The
sales person was very obliging. She showed the woman many
ladles. Some were very fancy, gilded pieces with heavily embossed
curved handles. The price seemed right, but the woman couldnt
the sales person said, Perhaps you would like to see
something like this. She brought out a ladle that was
plain and unadorned. This one pleased the woman very much.
She wanted to buy it. But the price! Nearly double the cost
of the others she had been shown. She asked why, and the sales
person said, In fancy ware, the agreement faults in
the material dont show. The defects are covered up by
the ornamentation. As you can see, the plain ladle is free
of defects. If there were any, you would see them easily.
as simple as that.
Sweet is the E. Stanley Jones Professor of Evangelism
at Drew University and keynote contributor to www.preachingplus.com.