From C. S. Lewis:
It has always therefore been one of my main endeavors as a teacher to persuade the young that firsthand knowledge is not only more worth acquiring than secondhand knowledge, but it usually much easier and more delightful to acquire.
This quote comes from the essay On the Reading of Old Books, part of the collection God in the Dock: Essays on Theology and Ethics. Lewis says here that it is easier to read Plato or St. Paul, for example, than to read books about Plato or St. Paul. Lewis says that the fear of reading great authors
… springs from humility. The student is half afraid to meet one of the great philosophers face to face. He feels himself inadequate and thinks he will not understand him. But if he only knew, the great man, just because of his greatness, is much more intelligible than his modern commentators.
This does not only apply to literature. I see the same theme in math. Sometimes early math papers are easier to read because they are more concrete. When I was a postdoc at Vanderbilt I asked Richard Arenstorf about a theorem attributed to him in a book I was reading. He scoffed that he didn’t recognize it. He had done his work in a relatively concrete setting and did not approve of the fancy window dressing the author had placed around his theorem. I sat in on a few lectures by Arenstorf and found them amazingly clear.
The same theme appears in software development. Sometimes you can dive to the bottom of an abstraction hierarchy and find that things are simpler there than you would have supposed. The intervening layers obscure the substance of the program, making its core seem unduly mysterious. Like a mediocre mind commenting on the work of a great mind, developers who build layers of software around core functionality intend to make things easier but may do the opposite.