The Ive Doctrine: Complexity within Simplicity, Part 2

“Why do we assume that simple is good? Because with physical products, we have to feel we can dominate them. As you bring order to complexity, you find a way to make the product defer to you. Simplicity isn’t just a visual style. It’s not just minimalism or the absence of clutter. It involves digging through the depth of the complexity. To be truly simple, you have to go really deep. For example, to have no screws on something, you can end up having a product that is so convoluted and so complex. The better way is to go deeper with the simplicity, to understand everything about it and how it’s manufactured. You have to deeply understand the essence of a product in order to be able to get rid of the parts that are not essential.”

(From Steve Jobs, by Walter Isaacson)

Obviously, this is part 2 of my post on Jony Ive’s doctrine of simplicity and the way it impacts our lives. The first post framed my interpretation of Jony Ive’s doctrine of simplicity. In order to understand this post, you really need to read part 1 before you start on this.

At the end of Part 1, I promised that I would give a list of areas where I feel that Ive’s viewpoint on simplicity is highly applicable. That is exactly what I am going to do. Some are more important than others. However, rather than attempt to put them in priority order, I am going to alphabetize. I’m such a nerd.

Christian Worship

Oh, don’t even get me started on this. The postmodern method for writing worship music can more or less be described as singing “a simple song of love to my Savior” (Kutless, “Arms of Love”).  This is all fine and dandy, and I encourage writing church music that is singable. However, just about every modern worship music writer completely misses the point of simplicity.

As has already been established, simplicity requires embracing and understanding complexity. This means that you should KNOW your tools. KNOW how to play guitar, piano, harp, bagpipe, gutbucket, or whichever tool by which you make a joyful noise. If you are going to be using these instruments to worship a God who is bigger than you can understand or imagine, learn to use them in a way that is worthy of Him.

Lyrics are the same thing. Don’t just copy and paste cliché quotes from the Psalms unless you are doing it in a way that is intelligent and purposeful. UNDERSTAND the redemptive undertones within the Scriptures. Apply yourself to UNDERSTAND the deep, complex theology that actually defines your songs. As with the instruments and tunes, you are worshipping a God who squeezed Infinity into a simple man with the purpose of letting Infinity become overcome by mortality. Take the time and effort to write lyrics that actually try to be worthy of Him.

How does this tie into simplicity? As I said before, the postmodern [incorrect] view of simplicity is to make the development of something simple. In the modern Christian songwriting industry, this more or less translates to a sense of laziness. Songs that quote the Psalms and Hymns or that repeat “God, you reign” 60 times over five minutes are simple to write, but they do not require an understanding of musical instruments or the themes in Scripture. Hence, they are not simple, but rather lazy. The sole-guitarist-sitting-on-a-stage-barely-picking-a-guitar-because-he-can’t-play form of worship music does not reflect a drive to worship God with our talents. It is fine for a new Christian or a new instrumentalist, but he had better not stick with that style. He needs to continue pushing himself to further understand his tools and subject matter in order to worship God with the very best of his abilities.

Simplicity is not writing songs that are easy to write. Simplicity is knowing one’s tools and theology well enough that one can use them to communicate their love for God in a manner that is understandable and worthy of His Incredible Glory.

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