The slogan, ‘KEEP IT SIMPLE’ helps to remind us that simple solutions are often the most effective ones. We have a tendency to make things more difficult than need be. When reminded to KEEP IT SIMPLE, we are being reminded that recovery is really very straightforward, and though it may not always be easy, there will always be someone to help you out along the way.
Dr. Carl Jung confirmed for Bill W. that the A.A. program aimed at spiritual development and a spiritual awakening, as treatment for alcoholism, was the correct direction.
Albert Einstein said; ‘If you can’t explain it, you don’t understand it well enough.’ What Einstein was driving at was a particular application of “KEEP IT SIMPLE, SURRENDER” A varient of KEEP IT SIMPLE is ‘Less is More’.
Leonardo da Vinci is often credited with saying that simplicity is the ultimate sophistication. The great Chinese teacher, Confucius, had this to say: “Life is really simple, but we insist on making it complicated.” He also advised to “KEEP IT SIMPLE and focus on what matters. Don’t let yourself be overwhelmed.”
The KEEP IT SIMPLE slogan has become closely associated with the A.A. fellowship that has saved countless lives. KEEP IT SIMPLE was the last thing Dr. Bob Smith, co-founder of A.A., said to Bill Wilson.
To those who owe their lives to the fellowships of recovery, the term KEEP IT SIMPLE comes with some serious historical 12 Step cache. It’s one of the most revered sayings in the history of Alcoholics Anonymous.
The first happened in the summer of 1950. Dr. Bob Smith was dying of colon cancer. Alcoholics Anonymous was hosting its first ever International Convention, in Cleveland, Ohio, just an hour’s drive from Dr. Bob’s home in Akron. Many thought he was too sick to speak at the event.
In a speech which lasted mere moments, he explained how he could not miss this first convention. And he shared on the slogan on which this story is based.
“There are two or three things that flashed into my mind on which it would be fitting to lay a little emphasis,” he said to a hushed crowd. “One is the simplicity of our program. Let’s not louse it up with Freudian complexes and things that are interesting to the scientific mind, but have very little to do with our actual A.A. work,” he said. “Our 12 Steps, when simmered down to the last, resolve themselves into the words ‘love’ and ‘service’. We understand what love is, and we understand what service is. So let’s bear those two things in mind.”
Dr. Bob was to succumb to the illness less than four months after that talk, on Nov. 16, 1950.
The second moment of clarity, as far as KEEP IT SIMPLE goes, happened when Bill Wilson, the other co-founder, got a final up-close and personal sense of Dr. Bob’s energy a few weeks later when he went up to Akron to see his old friend. Wilson was forever struck by the vision of his peer dying.
In “Alcoholics Anonymous Comes of Age”, written in 1957, Bill Wilson recalled his final meeting with Dr Bob, when he and the doctor agreed that an annual conference featuring sober A.A. delegates from around the world was the way to lead the fellowship into the future.
“A few hours later I took my leave of Dr. Bob, knowing that the following week he was to undergo a very serious operation,” he writes on page 214. “Neither of us dared say what was in our hearts. We both knew that this might well be the last decision that we would ever make together.”
“I went down the steps and then turned to look back. Bob stood in the doorway, tall and upright as ever. Some color had come back to his cheeks, and he was carefully dressed in a light gray suit. This was my partner, the man with whom I never had a hard word. The wonderful, old, broad smile was on his face as he said almost jokingly, “Remember, Bill, let’s not louse this thing up. Let’s KEEP IT SIMPLE!” I turned away, unable to say a word. That was the last time I ever saw him.”
In closing, KEEP IT SIMPLE was a classic Dr. Bob saying. He urged members to stay away from over-analyzing the program, and to stick to LOVE and SERVICE and spiritual matters as the answer to their dilemma.
The last paragraph on Page 164 of the “Big Book”, ‘A Vision For You’, suggests; Abandon yourself to God as you understand God. Admit your faults to Him and to your fellows. Clear away the wreckage of your past. Give freely of what you find and join us. We shall be with you in the Fellowship of the Spirit, “and you will surely meet some of us as you trudge the Road of Happy Destiny”.
May God bless you and keep you until then.