Missed Connections

WordPress is promoting an “easier posting experience” on this “Add New Post” page now.

That’s a lie.   It’s no easier, really.   You still have to do the hard work of writing well and then you have to push the publish button.

It’s not any easier, but it is significantly streamlined, with many fewer visible options.

For most people, though, WP knows that simpler, even in appearance, means easier.   If fewer bits distract you, it’s easier to focus.   Take away the options and the apparent complexity goes down, even if it takes basically the same keystrokes to do the work.

The removal of clutter, people sense, makes their life easier.

The removal of clutter, though, to me, means missed opportunities.  Creativity is impossible without clutter, because creativity is always making connections, seeing things in new ways, learning and growing in ways that you didn’t plan or expect.

Use a printed thesaurus, some professors say, because just being forced to thumb through pages of words opens you up to the divine surprise of serendipity.   How can anything pop out at you if it is hidden from you in the first place?

In an information economy, attention is the ultimate currency.  There is no way we can pay attention to the whole world, so we have to be selective.

For me, that means levels of attention.  I take the 50,000 foot view of the Kardashians, for example; all I need to know about them is in the tabloid headlines I glance at in checkout lines. In other areas, though, I use macro focus, looking for what I value.

Connections are what I look for.  I am interested in how things connect, how they form patterns, how they illuminate each other.  We live in a connected world, and those nodal points always bring insight.   I like to believe that reading my work you have been offered amusing and surprising connections that gave a bit of insight.

For people who find the new WordPress posting experience easier, though, this notion that clutter brings insight because it exposes possibilities and connections is not on their radar screen.   Simple means separated for them, with everything that they don’t need to understand hidden away where it will never, ever bother them.

Danger lies in every connection.   Once we understand that one choice we make is related to many others, we understand that our choices have deeper and more widespread implications than we want them to have.

A guru and his followers passed a bait shop, Joseph Campbell tells us, and were saddened by the plight of the captive fish in the window tanks.  They bought all of them and took them to the beach to release them, giving them freedom and happiness.   As they poured the buckets into the sea, the pelicans caught the scent, swooping down to fill their beaks and their bellies with delicious fish.  The followers started attacking the Pelicans, who just wanted lunch.

Every choice is connected to other choices.   To help us make the choices marketers want is to make, though, they make sure those connections are hidden, so that the choices we make appear simple and easy.

One of the hardest things I have to do is watch people making choices that they see as easy & simple and that I see as disconnected and missing the priorities.

For example, I remember the days when all liberals asked was we keep our queerness hidden.  “I don’t care what you do in the bedroom,” they would magnanimously say, “but you don’t need to expose it to the children.”

That was an easy choice for them to ask, because they didn’t have to pay the price of having their nature stuffed into the closet, of being stuck in there with a bear who kept you well policed.

Simple choices most often fob off the cost onto someone else.

In my family, my work was seen as free, because I was expected to be selfless.   This allowed people to not be forced to see the connections, the ripples, the ramifications, the costs of their nice and simple, easy choices.

I was left cleaning up the mess, being at the end of the whip, getting cracked.  I had to make sense of and do the work to get things to work.

Clutter is messy, yes.  But messy — and connected — are the nature of life.  It may feel “easier” to do clean mental separations, offloading the results of choices to others and letting us not have to do the work of seeing, understanding and being accountable for our own choices, but it renounces responsibility.

Being thrown into the darkness because it is easier for others to avoid the connections of their own choices is very, very hard, even if you know that those others do care for you and and are just overloaded with the complexity they have to negotiate everyday, the consuming no-win options in their everyday life.

They miss the connections and feel guilty, then that angst leading them to miss more connections, all the while making life more limited for those who depend on them to do what they promised to do.

The easy choice is almost never the choice that leads to growth and healing.  The easy choice is often the choice that keeps us in a spin, raising the emotional fever to keep us reactionary and manipulated rather than consciously responsive, finding a new way that pulls us out of the spiral.

It may seem easier to erase the clutter and miss the connections, but success takes intelligent ignorance; if we don’t know what we are choosing to not pay attention to, we lose the power to become better by seeing connections in what was once clutter.

When simplicity emerges from clutter as patterns reveal themselves to us, we become better.   When simplicity is imposed by throwing out what we don’t understand, we become more disconnected.

Simpler is not the same as easier, even if simplicity and order does have its own value.

Things really get easier when we understand them better, when we understand how they connect, not when we fight to ignore the connections.

Or, at least, that is my experience.