In a classroom on a Wednesday afternoon twenty-five plus years ago, a simple exercise etched itself in my mind. We were given two illustrations in sequence. In the first, the page was flooded with images. Everywhere you looked, there was a familiar sight. After a time of study, we were ask to put the page away and document what we could remember from the page. As I recall, I could only remember three or four items with any level of certainty.
The second page for study only had six items. With the same period of reflection, we repeated the process. I remembered all six items.
The morale of the story was two-fold. First, less is more. Second, the maximum of less for most individuals is seven. If there are seven or few images or areas of print on a page, one is likely to remember all. Beyond seven, the one’s memory diminishes in an inverted relationship to the number. In other words, the more there is on a page, the less that one usually remembers.
The simple lesson and learning experience has stayed with me since.
While I have had other classes and learning experiences, the simple mantra of seven ranks as a personal belief and value. For whatever reason, I became aware and have never forgotten.
God offers us instruction on life and living. While faith traditions have different values, there is an inherent simplicity of instruction that we would do well to pay attention to. Even as time, place, and context have roles, universal values share simplicity at their core. Life can and often is more complex. There is no “but” that comes with complexity; it is simply a factor. Instructions are given for our benefit.
Paul offered the following instruction. “If you are married, stay married. This is the Master’s command, not mine.” (1 Corinthians 7.10) In the context and complexity of our lives we need to hear. Life lessons do not end here, but it is a beginning. We hold the freedom to live, learn, grow, and reach for more. We choose.