Simplicity, stillness, perfection

Jesus (in the Sermon on the Mount) updates the ancient idea of Do not break your vows—instead fulfill them. He adds

Do not all, [not] by heaven..or by the earth.. And do not swear by your head, for you cannot make even one hair white or black. All you need to say is simply "Yes" or "No"

Let your "Yes" be a Yes and your "No" be a No. This scripture is less about the rightness or wrongness of swearing by god and much more about simplicity—How hard it is to be simple and how easy it is to be complex. It is easy to elaborate, to run on—hard to simply state (and stop)—We yearn for complexity because it makes us feel important. How will I be taken seriously if I don't say that much? How many academics drone on in their papers and how many conversationalists wander on ad infinitum about something they have basically already said?

Roman emperor Marcus Aurelius gets at a related idea, writing

Be like the promontory against which the waves continually break—but it stands firm and tames the fury of the water around it

The waves crash and toil and try to break the land. The waves try to destroy the land. They have such power. They go to such effort. And this piece of land that juts out into the sea does—nothing! It sits still. It waits out the waves. In being still, it tames even the fury of the sea

In the movie of Michael Crichton's Sphere, an opaque metallic sphere terrorizes and outrageously murders undersea divers until only a few are left. Contemplating their enemy, the physicist Ted says

I'll bet if you put a laser micrometer on this, it'd be a perfect sphere. Perfect to a thousandth of an inch. That's a message in and of itself

His remaining crewmates ask him to explain. Ted continues

When Pope Benedict asked Giotto to prove his worth as an artist, Giotto drew a perfect circle—freehand. Perfection. It's a powerful message

Yeah. Perfection is a powerful message. This ultra-powerful alien being is killing all these military divers, obliterating their submarines and torturing them psychologically (by turning their imaginations against them) and the way this eminent and ultimate destroyer presents itself is—a perfect sphere. Silent. Still. It is the most horrifying thing any of them have ever encountered and it chooses to show itself to them as a perfect circle—unmoving, expressionless

We are distracted from our perfect nature by complicating things we could have said simply, by moving chaotically when we could have stayed still, and by presenting ourselves imperfectly when perfection would do. Is it possible in daily life for me to be simple, to stay still—and to present myself as a perfect circle?