Everywhere we turn, the message of “simple” screams out at us. And this weekend, I heard and read that message reinforced time and again.
SIMON: Who do you think you can put into a song in your 80s that you couldn’t in your 30s or 40s?
BENNETT: The business of knowing what to leave out. That happens with age. Less is more. And it becomes more of a performance. It tugs the listeners’ heart by knowing that it’s just in the right pocket, right in the right groove.
(Read and/or listen to the full interview, Tony Bennett’s Art of Intimacy, here).
The essence of “simple” is knowing “what to leave out.”
The other source, of course, is the ongoing bombardment of insight about and from Steve Jobs, following his death. The touching read of the weekend was his sister’s eulogy: A Sister’s Eulogy for Steve Jobs by Mona Simpson. In case you have been living under a rock, the accomplished novelist Mona Simpson is the sister Steve Jobs did not know he had for the first part of his life. They met when she was 25, and according to the new Walter Isaacson book, they bonded deeply, and immediately.
Her eulogy reveals so much about his love and commitment to “simple.” Here are a few revealing excerpts:
(Steve) was the opposite of absent-minded.
Their house didn’t intimidate with art or polish; in fact, for many of the first years I knew Steve and Lo together, dinner was served on the grass, and sometimes consisted of just one vegetable. Lots of that one vegetable. But one. Broccoli. In season. Simply prepared. With just the right, recently snipped, herb.
I spoke to him every other day or so, but when I opened The New York Times and saw a feature on the company’s patents, I was still surprised and delighted to see a sketch for a perfect staircase.
Intubated, when he couldn’t talk, he asked for a notepad. He sketched devices to hold an iPad in a hospital bed. He designed new fluid monitors and x-ray equipment. He redrew that not-quite-special-enough hospital unit.
But with that will, that work ethic, that strength, there was also sweet Steve’s capacity for wonderment, the artist’s belief in the ideal, the still more beautiful later.
Steve’s final words, hours earlier, were monosyllables, repeated three times.
Before embarking, he’d looked at his sister Patty, then for a long time at his children, then at his life’s partner, Laurene, and then over their shoulders past them.
Steve’s final words were:
OH WOW. OH WOW. OH WOW.
Simple sketches. Simple designs Simple words.
We know his work as the triumph of simple design. You buy a computer from Apple, and the booklet for set-up is all images. No words. So simple, even I can do it.
Simple. Keep it simple. Know what to leave out.