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Simple Stuff


Published: 02/22/2013

by Jim Campbell

On my bookshelves I can spot books I’ve never finished reading. They’re dusty, with bookmarks where I

stopped reading. I’ve no plan to get back to them any time soon – maybe some time but not now.


It seems I quickly lose interest in authors who require the reader to continually check a glossary at the back

of the book or have the latest dictionary close at hand. In an article on public speaking, the author said using

palillogy was helpful. Volume Two of the Oxford dictionary reveals it means ‘repetition for emphasis’. Why didn’t

he just say that? And there are the sentences filled with irritatingly long strings of acronyms: “CEOs of CWTA

& CCSA discussed OTT services with PIAC.” These are reader blocks and hardly worth the effort to decode.


Looking at the bookshelf, it is clear that some books are written to talk to people inhabiting the author’s

bubble, rather than to enlighten people like you and me. George Bernard Shaw gave an actor this line:

“All professions are conspiracies against the laity” (laypersons or amateurs).


With all that self-examination, having eased my feelings of guilt and inadequacy, I might as well face the facts

and get rid of those books. It’ll be a small act in the battle against complexity and a blow in favour of simplicity

and clarity.


It’s interesting to remember that William Shakespeare, and the scholars who worked to translate the Bible

into English, worked hard to be understood. To do this they used words that were clear and simple. They were

able to tell stories and express profound thoughts, emotions, insight and mysteries, and examine the strengths

and weaknesses of humanity.


Most of the important things of life can be expressed simply in small, clear, basic words: water, fire, food,

pain, love,war, peace, mercy, hope, faith, joy, justice, truth, honour.

Language, like everything else these days, tends to move relentlessly away from simplicity to complexity.

You’ve noticed that the dedicated contingent of media ‘experts’ selected to cast light on every issue invariably

declare, from the get-go, that the subject at issue is more complex than it seems. Well, if the question was

simple, as experts they’d be out of work.


Everything gets that treatment.

Each year, the holiday celebrations clustering around the end of December and the New Year – Hanukkah,

Christmas, Kwanzaa, etc. – are examined to uncover the ‘hidden’ history imbedded in every custom

and act of faith. Each year, the process ends up being summed up in the mean-spirited phrase,

“It is nothing but ….”


Nonsense! The celebrations are about simple stuff: like remembering people who have been part of our lives,

who laughed and celebrated with us. They cement the bonds with families and friends, recognizing our

dependence on one another.


It is about remembering the values and traditions we were taught, and seeing, year after year, the importance of
ritual and mystery. The holidays are, now more than ever, a break from the grind of the ‘same old, same old’,

a time when – through age-old readings, carols and prayers, our spirits and our souls are reinvigorated.


Maybe, in the end, all life is about simple stuff.  


Jim Campbell is an Oakville-based author and writer. His newest book, Glimpses Through the Mirror: The Collected Pen Point Columns, published by BPS Books

of Toronto, is available from Please send your comments on this column to or
via post to 115 George St., Unit 1524, Oakville ON L6J 0A2.


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