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People are complex. Emotions are complex. Thoughts are complex. In combination, the complex interaction of mind and heart is mind boggling, even if we consider it only in the abstract. If we spend the moment to personalise that thought, to recall moments – maybe just one – maybe many – in which we’ve found ourselves paralysed by the rich tapestry of complexity present in human action, it becomes easy to understand.

Yesterday, while having a discussion on this complexity, it occurred to me that my dislike for complexity, was misplaced. In truth, there is no complexity. People are not complex.

Why? Because complexity is internal. People are complex because their thoughts, beliefs and feelings are complex. Their inner worlds are littered with complexity.

Yes, their inner worlds are complex. But their outer worlds? Their outer worlds are not so complex.

Their outer worlds are not as complex because three things simplify that outer world. This is because complexity is both a blessing and a curse. Complexity gives us the ability to step into the shoes of another person. We recognise the inner monologues, struggles and thoughts of others because they happen within ourselves. Our complexity is similar. It gives us the ability to empathise and, I hope, to understand.

The power of complexity is further diminished because much of our complexity in the end is irrelevant. In any situation, the amount of us that is the conscious mind, the perceived feeling is so tiny. Instead, so much of interaction is sub-conscious, buried within our expectations, our norms and our moral spheres. It is governed by thousands of assumptions, cultural standards and boundaries. We possess the complexity, but the complexity does not in turn reflect in all our actions.

Things based on assumptions can be explained. We have the ability to explain our decision making process. We have the capacity to describe how we came to walk the paths we now walk. We have the rare gift of seeing our own stories in hindsight. This gift allows us to sort the wheat from the chaff, to see all the complexity as chaff, and winnow from it the few grams of wheat that are the story of our lives. When we impose a narrative on our lives, which as humans we are driven to do, we eliminate the complexity. From this narrative of our history, we build our identities and our personalities. They are purified by the simplicity of the narrative we impose on ourselves.

When we find ourselves in complex situations, it is often because we have created them. We have separated our actions from our intentions by saying one thing and doing another or by believing one thing and acting as if we believed another.

I believe it is a miracle, a miracle of the mind, a miracle of the heart and a miracle of creation, that inside all this complexity, within the mirror of a million possibilities, the winnowing process of consciousness can remove so much of the complication from a situation. It cannot remove the complexity, if that complexity is what we desire consciously or sub-consciously – who can save us from ourselves? In that way, complexity is both our blessing and our curse.

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