Complexity – an unnatural facet of modern human life

I cannot be alone in my often questioning and occasional overwhelm at the sheer complexity of modern human life. The fact that I am currently deep in the renovation of premises for my new business is certainly contributing to the impression that we have made life so complex that we need a full time staff member to assist us in sorting through the morass of things to do, people to call, things to follow up on, insurances to purchase, grocery shopping to get done, banking to attend to, tax to complete . . . need more be said? This list is just taken from what is bubbling at the surface of my awareness. More could easily be added, enough to fill pages when actual paid work is included and not just the volume of things that are peripheral to the ‘day job’.

But it is not just the sheer volume of stuff to be done, and the constant wash of it, like waves rolling up a beach as the tide rises. That in itself is always manageable when we stay steady and do not delay in attending to what needs to be done. It is the level of complexity that revolves around each of those tasks that is so dismaying and fatiguing, and so deadening to our natural vivaciousness and joie de vivre. And if indeed you can recall what that felt like, this might take you back to your childhood when Mum and Dad did all of the complex stuff (like paying the mortgage and organising insurance), and playing in the backyard with your mates was as tricky as it got.

So many terms and conditions to negotiate in the simple matter of purchasing the right to use software. Who reads those things anyway? I am sure there must be people whose suspicion of tech giants makes them fine-tooth-comb every word. But if you do disagree, you cannot use the software and see how far you get in 2022 without Microsoft Office, Google Chrome or at least one App on your smart phone.

That brings me to the fact of the smart phone – once, a long time ago, the mobile phone gave us the capacity to make calls and send texts from just about anywhere we could connect to a network. My, how we welcomed the incredible freedom from not being chained to a wall-plugged appliance. Now we (not all, but very many of us) are carrying around small computers in our pockets, filled with convenient Apps that dominate us with incoming messages, offers for things we do not want or need, and alerts about this or that ‘must watch video’ of a cat hitting a dog. No longer are we ‘free’ but bound to a ceaseless source of information that demands our time and attention as it infiltrates our world with stuff that we probably do not need to know and certainly do not need to waste our resources on.

The incredible freedoms of online banking, online meeting rooms, cloud-based software applications, and the capacity to manage so many aspects of our lives have brought with it the threat of cyber insecurity, hence a plethora of other software that are essential to manage the risk. But how do we choose which one to use? We might go to the online forums where experts (of indeterminant expertise) debate the ‘best,’ the ‘cheapest,’ the ‘most comprehensive’. An hour spent reading these pages and then moving to pages of consumer reviews (of indeterminant validity) and we are likely to still be left bewildered, uncertain . . . One choice, demanding so much time and attention. If we take a less calculated and thoughtful approach and go with what we have always gone with, there is still complexity to capture us in the choice of which level of membership/protection/access/array of features we ‘need’ to have. Make the ‘wrong’ decision and who knows how bad the consequences will be . . . is the underlying implication/threat. We might think we can carve out simplicity by avoiding painstaking research and its excessive information, but the setup is drenched in complexity at every level.

Let us now move from cyber-complexity to the supermarket. Walk down the pharmacy aisle and choose a different toothbrush and toothpaste from your automatic go-to options. Go on. I dare you. One brand, renowned for its sensitivity toothpastes, has 12, yes 12 alternatives. And that is just one brand. Read the blurb on the pack and you will get sucked down a vortex of uncertainty and ridiculous complexity, wondering what you need and how you will survive if you make the wrong choice out of the 12. OK, I am exaggerating, but only a little when you consider how utterly unnecessary is such complexity over one decision on your shopping trip. Now choose a new dishwashing liquid or dishwasher tablet or powder, and then a garbage bin liner. So many choices that make one dream of our fantasy version of communist Russia and its bare-shelved simplicity. Only in the fresh food aisle are the choices more simple as long as you stay away from the multitude of apples with their complex interbreeding schema, and do not get drawn into the pesticide saturated vs organic debate. (For the record, I choose pesticide saturated – there are some levels of complexity I refuse to engage with.)

There are a number of people who are dealing with this bombardment of complexity by ‘going off the grid’, abandoning the convenience of modern city life with its inherent morass of complication, to live a ‘simpler’ life in the country or by the beach. There must be some alleviation in this; I know the relief I feel whenever I get out of Sydney, even if just for a day trip, but I am not convinced escapism is the answer.

Wherever we go, we cannot leave ourselves behind. And there is something about us, human beings, that has more than a hand in creating and welcoming the complexity.

No other species has to face anything more complex than responding to their hunger and responding to the season and moving in accordance with it. We make their lives more complex by fencing them in and using them to meet our needs, but even so, their fundamental way is one of simple responsiveness. Interesting isn’t it, that some of us perceive their simplicity as evidence of their stupidity . . . as we fret over which insurance policy to take out against a mass of risk that we cannot actually control and from which the insurance actually cannot protect us (just mop up the consequences). We earn money and pay vast sums of it out to protect our income and the way of life we live to make it – funding the complexity that in turn drains us. You can see why people attempt to get away from it all, abandon the modern world with its enslaving conveniences, driven by the fantasy of growing one’s own old fashioned apples, milking cows, or lazing by the beach . . .

Having lived and worked in the country and having travelled to beach-side meccas, I do not see a complexity-free existence, and people filled with vivaciousness and joie de vivre. Sure, there is less complexity but there is not no complexity.

This is because of a factor that I have already hinted at. We have had more than a hand in creating and welcoming the complexity of human existence. In fact, it is a point of pride that insidiously hides behind our complaints about it and our overwhelm when it gets to be too much. Complexity keeps the wheel of our lives spinning. It keeps us very busy, mentally and physically, furnishing us with a sense of purpose, just to keep up with it all. It is the source of our conversation and acts as a great social lubricant. Go out with your friends and do not tell your complaining stories about complexity for a whole night. Actually, try it for an hour. See how much you actually have to say and feel the uncomfortability when one of your social props is taken from you. The normalisation of complexity is part of our problem with it too – we do not properly see it and register its impacts because everyone is suffering from it, in one way or another, and its strain on our bodies is constantly reflected in all the tension-filled faces we see and in the harried way people move their bodies through life.

Try getting rid of complexity for even a short hour and more than likely, what you will notice is a horrific level of agitation in the body from a nervous system hard wired to meet the world at the level of tension it seems to demand. No wonder we turn to punishing exercise, alcohol, drugs and excesses of highly flavoured food, to drown out a level of tension that is as close to unbearable as can be. No wonder people seek to escape – but here is the problem with those methods. The effects of exercise, alcohol, drugs and food wear off, leaving us aching, hung over, dysfunctional, and overweight and diabetic. Witness the complexity increase with those conditions.

And considering again those optimistic escapees from complexity ridden big cities: Ask any country or seaside local about the influx of these new dwellers who fill their towns and communities, and they will tell you what demanding, complication inducing nightmares they are to live with. Sure, they have left the city, but they have not left the reason for their departure and their addiction to it. It is a fact that wherever we go, we cannot leave ourselves behind, nor the problems we have contributed to (consciously or not) then neatly avoided by kidding ourselves we can just walk away.

“We fight simplicity when there is still the requiredness of seeming stimulation.”

Serge Benhayon in private communication

It is worth considering whether the complexity of the human world is just a reflection of the complexity within us. In other words, the thing we most complain about and feel so pressured and bullied by, is not just the result of a small group of mean people with ill intent, operating in the background. Rather it comes from an amassed group agreement we have all contributed to, invested in and endorsed simply through the way we live and the internal turmoil that we have made normal because everyone seems to be the same. Worse still is the insidious way we ‘get off’ on the complexity – the intensity and busyness of it all. It masquerades as purpose, and falsely attributes us with a sense of value because we have so much of it and can handle it with such aplomb. This, I cannot prove to you, all I can is suggest it as a possibility and one worth exploring before you jump on realestate.com to look for the simple paradise you feel is waiting for you and that you deserve . . .

Then re-locating your complexity to somewhere with a nicer view . . .

I have already proposed leaving aside the complication if you can, even for an hour, but I suspect most of you have misinterpreted this as abandoning responsibility and not doing the things you are meant to be doing. This is not it at all, but boy is it revealing of how we humans love to cop out of life whenever we can.

No, when I say leave aside complexity, I am suggesting a deeper inward awareness; an examination of how you are with what you do. Pay your bills, choose your insurance policy, buy cat food, but do it with awareness of the inner state of your being, awareness of how you move, how you sit at the computer, how you walk down the aisle of the supermarket. Bring conscious presence to the tasks of life, rather than placing yourself at the mercy of the complexity as naturally happens when we are mentally scattered, hence doing life ‘half in and half out’. Do this as a fun kind of experiment; an exploration of the force of complexity that bombards and owns us when we allow it to move us and drain us of our vitality, vivaciousness, and natural joie de vivre – such as you had when you were a kid playing in the backyard. And if you did not have that, then when you were born and first emerged in this world as a bundle of simple responsivity to your simple needs.

If this article and its offered experiment have piqued your interest, look at the ‘read more’ links at the bottom of the page for the resources that will support you on your journey to greater simplicity in a world of complexity. No need to escape to anywhere, just a deep embracing of what you already are, underneath the complexity that has beguiled you to think otherwise.

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CommunityConscious presenceFatigueResponsibility

  • By Dr Rachel Mascord, Dentist

    Dentist and business owner. I have a very practical hand on life and a keen eye for observation of the workings of human life.

  • Photography: Rebecca W., UK, Photographer

    I am a tender and sensitive woman who is inspired by the playfulness of children and the beauty of nature. I love photographing people and capturing magical and joyful moments on my camera.