About complexity

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Movie set in Paris, about the French Revolution, being shot in Oxford, England

Dreams of simplicity and complexity

The door of the old building installed at the entrance of the new bank (Tokyo)

The author lost in a hedge maze in Scotland

Some complexity is all surface, or defies the surface-depth division.

Some complexity is all depth, or defies the surface-depth division.

Complexity is inevitable and should be increased, though this does not mean that busyness must always be increased. Complexity should increase not just in our goals and grammars but in our way of inhabiting them.

-- Is complexity always a good? Couldn't it be a lure that takes you away from basic issues that need to be addressed?

-- Yes, it could be, but then that would mean that the complexity wasn't being experienced complexly enough, in its fuller context. When you propose the objection, you're proposing that we should look at the complexity more complexly. Why can't the inhabitants do that too?

-- Your talk of complexity assumes that there is more thickness than is really left in places today. Your complexity is just a surface shimmer; down deep the places are simplified, simplified into commodities and spectacles.

-- We should reject the depth-surface duality. Everything exists within a skein of relations, and it's the thickness and density -- and complexity -- of those relations that makes for "depth," in the sense that there's more to the place than might appear, more going on, more locating us, more offering of possibilities. In that sense, it is commodification and oversimplified places that are surface effects, not deep reality.

-- Your talk about complexity is just another way of avoiding the encounter with deep simple things like our communal servitude, and our materiality, embodiment, and death. To encounter these, you need to pay more attention to a strategy of deliberate simplification.

-- There certainly is a "depth" in a singular encounter with materiality and mortality. But those are conditions of our overall situation that can be encountered anywhere. They don't demand exceptional or solitary simplified experiences -- as Kierkegaard shows when he describes the knight of faith looking thoroughly bourgeois. On the other hand exceptional experiences may indeed bring us up against our singular materiality and mortality in ways that -- Kierkegaard again -- the busyness of ordinary life occludes. Ann Cline and Michael Benedikt discuss ways in which this kind of experience could be built into our environment.

We do need to be aware, though, that while there can be a voluntary simplification for depth of encounter, there can also be a simplification forced or seduced for sales and profit. These are distinct even when the second co-opts the first into a marketing trend (as with the magazines urging us to buy products that enhance our simplicity).

-- Doesn't complexity as a goal take power away from the thrust for change? It can fitter away attention and motivation into endless filigree.

-- That objection reads complexity as a distraction rather than as seeing what is there. Unless you are saying that the thrust for change depends on an essentializing choice of a few elements of the complex as most important. It's true that that we have to choose what to effect, and that our effects will go beyond what we intend. But complexity and a richer horizon of possibilities doesn't by itself paralyze change. It may rather enhance our imagination, and if it does slow down a thrust for change, that may be for the good in situations where an over-eager thrust would do damage.