Applying Simple Solutions in Complex Situations

As many people are confronted with some of the realities of living in a highly complex social and ecological world, they find that the tools in their toolkit are simple tools. Simple problem solving tools are appropriate for complicated systems not complex ones. Approaches for solving mechanical and technical problems (complicated) are not appropriate for solving highly complex social and living system problems. The inadequacy of our simple tools can drive us to put undue trust in confident leaders, groupthink and mytho-poetic “strongmen”. I believe that we are currently seeing this trend in both the political left and right.

What actually allows us to effectively engage in complexity are practices in simplicity. This includes practices in prayer, meditation, zooming out to the macro, silence, contemplation. Where simple tools try to solve a problem, simplicity practices seek peace and belonging within a situation and perhaps a next step or deeper understanding.

One of the challenges in front of us is to discern what system we are working in and what approach is appropriate. In education, our work is to help young people practice this discernment through the different stages of development. This is one of the reasons mindfulness and other practices in simplicity are so important in educational settings.

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