It was a very pleasant, early summer morning in the little village of Ockham, in Surrey, England. On that warm June 8th, 1317, a Tuesday I believe, Sir William lolled in his hammock as he contemplated his extensive list of “honey-do’s”, considered the amount of work involved and mused that there must be an easier way.
Okay, maybe it didn’t happen quite like that but at any rate William of Ockham left us with a most valuable tool to employ when approaching any of life’s problems: Simplicity. His entia non sunt multiplicanda sine necessitate, the principle that one should not multiply entities beyond necessity, has stood the test of time as perhaps our greatest method for saving time and increasing efficiency.
Ockham’s thoughts on the subject have come down to us as “Occam’s Razor”, so called because they are to be used as a razor to shave away unnecessary components of a solution or if presented with two competing solutions, to cut between them.
By way of self-fulfilling editing we have even managed to distill his maxim down further to “KISS” (keep it simple, stupid).
Using occam’s razor as a departure point, I have come to the conclusion that in actuality there are no complicated solutions to any of life’s quandaries or difficulties, only complicated reasons to not adopt the simple solutions available to us. Additionally, complicated solutions seem always to redound to the benefit of those who are supposed to be solving the problem.
And now for the not so subtle segue. If you accept the above paragraph as true then occam’s razor becomes a valuable tool for detecting whether or not a stated agenda is in fact the true agenda.
The process itself is extremely simple. Whenever an entity, person or organization, is supposedly working toward a stated agenda but can be observed using any means other than the simplest available to achieve the goals set by their agenda, then their stated agenda is not their true agenda.
This is a powerful realization because it gives us the ability to question motives and demand answers. “Senator, how is it possible to simplify the tax code by adding 4,000 pages to it?” or “Mr. Road Commissioner, that new highway extension to the north seems to jog east for several miles. Would you mind explaining why and perhaps mention who owns the property you will be purchasing for the new right of way?” For an example closer to home, “son, I’m happy to give you a ride to school but why do you insist we drive down Poplar street. It’s four blocks out of the way.”
Our lives are all agenda driven, by our own and those of others. Sharpen occam’s razor and apply it liberally to all those stated agendas that are important to you.
The beauty of it is that you don’t have to have the answers, just the realization that there has to be a simpler way and the chutzpah to pose the questions.