Jewish Journal

Keeping It Simple

by Ben Spielberg

November 21, 2012 | 2:31 pm

The mantras of Alcoholics Anonymous have always intrinsically conflicted with my belief system. The one that caused me the most stress was not about God, powerlessness, or any type of spiritual conditioning; rather, the mantra that, to this day, irks me to my core, is the infamous KISS: Keep It Simple, Stupid.

The power of the slogan is impressive. When one righteously questions certain principles, they are told to keep it straightforward. When one cannot fathom an idea of a Great Being or Creator, they are told to stop thinking so hard. And when one can barely get through a day without getting high, they are told that it's simple—when, in fact, it is one of the most intricately complex and jumbled processes a human being can go through.

These examples notwithstanding, I do understand the relevance of the phenomenal catch-phrase. Addicts have a tendency to over-think ordinary tasks so much so that making a bed turns into an activity of existential despair. After years of stoned mannerisms and opiated thoughts, the use of praying and meditation seem pointless when attempting to fix the problems of the world.

A balance must be found. Keeping it too simple contradicts the some of the most respected values in Judaism that are ruthlessly upheld at Beit T'Shuvah; we must wrestle with our thoughts, feelings, and external influences. Extracting significance from every event does not end with knowledge—it ends with compulsion and empty neurosis and disappointment. We must wrestle, but not fight. We must question with dignity and refute only if necessary. We must understand that some of the most complicated things in life are deemed by some people as “simple.”

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