The Clever and the Simple

 "Honesty is expensive. Do not expect cheap people to possess it" Warren Buffet

Is it better to be clever or simple in life? What do sacred books have to say on the matter?

In life one comes across two kinds of persons. There are some who are extremely simple, direct and straightforward in whatever it is that they have to do or say. Then there are others who are clever, who rather than going about the business of life in a straightforward manner try and discover that extra trick that might make one more successful; rather then come to the point directly they would rather beat around the bush as they weigh the consequences of various options, the various strategies as in a game of chess.

When I was in school, my friends regarded me as a simple person. It was the clever street smart ones who were popular and most admired. Therefore it was natural for us simple ones to try and cultivate cleverness. However, as one matures one wonders about one’s approach to life and I soon arrived at the conclusion that increasing happiness is my priority and being simple tends to enhance it rather than being clever. A clever person is so involved in games of  mind that they forget to notice  flowers, song of the birds and beauty of the sunrise and sunset, so that happiness that is simply and effortlessly available to all is denied to them.

There is an old saying in Punjab " Sayana kaowa gun te ja dig marda je" which translates as " The clever crow falls and dies in a heap of dung", and another much cruder one from my great grandmother couched in humor that I had quoted in the original version of this post but have now deleted. My great grandmother passed away much before my time, but this profound wisdom was passed on to her younger daughter who gave it to my aunt, a Professor of Political science, who made it known to us.

Lest anyone read the the last bit of wisdom in an earlier version of this post and deduces that my Great grand Ma (may her soul rest in peace) was a crude rustic because of the amazing crudity of her profoundness, may I clarify that she was the wife of the Commissioner of the Quetta-Pishin districts in British India and her best friend was Laura Lushington, from the British Peerage, the wife of the Commissioner of Kumaon and one of Dame Laura's son was the commissioner of Baluchistan.

A wise person in Iraq,during my worldwide travels in  younger days, explained it through a scientific analogy. He explained that the shortest and quickest way to go from point A to point B is through the straight line, the straight path, anything else is at best an approximation.

I have tried to understand life both by observation and study. The study has included scriptures of ancient religions of the East and West. Although, I do not subscribe to interpretations of many of the so called defenders of these religions and their latter day interpretations, I do value the words of scriptures that appeal to me. Thus in the Bible, Nicodemus enquiring from Jesus about how a man enters a womb again or is born again, I simply take it as a question about reincarnation rather than a complex hypothesis of a preacher who explained how a brief ritual shall make one a born again Christian, fit to enter heaven.

My simple explanation would not fit in with Christian interpretations that have denied reincarnation, well at least more than a single reincarnation, because even they have to count on that one reincarnation into hell for all those who shall not drop a penny in their hat. A repeated reincarnation and a limited hellish birth for fifty or even a hundred years is not scary enough to scare the shits out of the pants of a prospective catch. One needs eternal hell fire for having viewed that lovely blonde with a lustful eye and not joining them.  It is a different matter that they got into difficulty when asked how the cow and the cat would be born again to go to hell or heaven. However, it seems an explanation was found not in agreement with other religious philosophies. It was declared that animals do not have a soul and therefore there was no question of their going to hell or heaven in any case.

Coming back to my study of scriptures and my appreciation for what has appealed to me in them; in the Holy Bible the portions that appealed to me most were the books entitled the Proverbs and Ecclesiastes and the first book of the New Testament; that and the story of Ruth. Therefore here let me quote from the Proverbs for my initial appreciation of simplicity rather than cleverness in life:

“My son walk not thou in the way with them, refrain thy foot from their path;
“For their feet run to evil and make haste to shed blood;
“Surely in vain the net is spread in the sight of the bird;
“And they lay wait for their own blood, lurk privily for their own lives
 Chapter 1, Verses 15-18, Proverbs

These verses carry the message that not only is it good to be simple it is also good to shun the company of the clever and the devious to the extent possible. However my experience in the modern world is that one keeps running into the too clever by halves all the time and then the question arises as to how to deal with them; before one can get around to shunning them. One way is to fight them with one’s own clever strategy, like the opponent on a chess board and come up with one’s own brilliant Sicilian defense. Once again as a result of my experience and study I have found this last approach to be a poor one. It is like a fist fight where one does not know who will receive the fatal blow, or like the game of chess where one is not assured whose erect king will fall first. The best way is to stick to one’s straightforward and simple approach and one will be pleasantly surprised to find that in the end, it is the one's with the net who have got trapped in their own net. Complex strategies built up on lies over long periods of time will collapse simply like a hot air baloon that goes fussssssssss when it is punctured by a tiny needle, because as the book say,

"A lie is for a moment, a truth is forever"

Scanning further along in the Book of Proverbs one shall also find words to the effect;

“More bitter than death is a woman whose hands are like bands and whose heart is all snares and nets”

If one has ended up with a wife like that it may be wise to reeducate her by referring her to this article but if the habit is too deep seated then the same book of proverbs suggests another remedy,

“Better it is to live on the corner of the roof than with a brawling woman in a spacious house”

In time though, it is my experience that the angels of the Lord shall pick up the simple and lead them into a spacious house filled with beauty and sunshine, while the greedy and devious would be led into a dark, dank rat hole, for the Angles love the simple and detest the devious.

Brawling or false sweetness are part of the arsenal of the clever. However, this saying does not apply just to women ( lest they run with a hatchet after me), there are simple and clever men just as there are simple and clever women. In my own family my mother was a simple, loving and straightforward person and it was my father who was up to weaving snares and nets frequently. It goes without saying that my mother was happy and peaceful most of her life while my father sulked through it. The few difficulties that she did have for a part of her life were because of the companion whom fate had willed for her. Company has its influence without doubt, but as she said privately to us on more than one occasion, she stuck by him because of her four children, so that she could secure a home for them until they were capable on their own. He had a senior position in the Indian Army (that he retained with her help) and good homes to live in because of that. A public photo of her,  Nand Rani Malhotra, can be found on the web at this link

Note: A comment by a friend Robin Elizabeth who runs a network of spiritual writers on  has made the author realize that there could be some confusion because of the choice of words in this post. As soon as better words are found the post shall be amended accordingly; simple may be interpreted as lack of wisdom. It has two meanings, the first is plain, basic and devoid of complexity. The other meaning is lacking in wisdom and foolish. it is the former usage of simple in this article. I am a great supporter of wisdom myself and because of it a great fan of the Book of Proverbs Perhaps another participant can suggest a better choice of words. the reference to simple was to the straightforward and honest, and clever to those who tend to be devious, false or pretentious. perhaps the text in the red and green image with the post clarifies it better.Perhaps a fellow blogger can suggest the right words. We have been missing a friend and fellow blogger, Vincent in this blog who has a great command of the English language and at one time pointed out essential corrections.


ashok said…
Often when a blog post is written once one may write something not too nice because of the free flow. But self censoring some time later helps to remove parts that appear a bit too offensive for the public later. That has been done to this post too slightly while leaving a not so nice word in that has become a bit too common now in a phrase used i.e scaring the sxxxx out of ----
Vincent said…
I couldn't suggest any different words, dear Ashok, but I may take a different view.

In a forest there may be two kinds of trees. The forester may judge that one kind is better than the other and take steps accordingly: to encourage the one and weed out the other. Thus Nature is converted by man from wilderness to cultivation.

Nature, as Darwin observed, does its own culling, through Natural Selection. Man can try similar means to change the world, setting forth notions of how to improve human nature or organization.

Like you, I prefer the simple life, am drawn to honesty, virtue and compassion towards all. In my post on blessedness I referred to the notion of finding a Way to do better, a universal key. But these days, I make fewer judgements, am content to observe, sometimes have opinions, sometimes not.

ashok said…
Hello welcome Vincent and nice to see your comments to several posts. As always they add real value to them.

yes I agree Vincent that nature has a reason for keeping both around the simple and the clever. Both have a place but as I mentioned in the post simple and simplicity contributes more to happiness and one may wish to consider that.

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