Question Ten

Are you sophisticated beyond humility?

Is it possible to be sophisticated when by oneself?  To be so when there is no one else around with whom to share one’s cosmopolitan views?  In other words, can sophistication (in this case, cultivation as disposition) survive in isolation, fed by aloneness, by solitude?  What is it made of, and on what does it survive and thrive?  What food does it require, and what vegetables does it avoid?  Does sophistication reveal its true nature at a cocktail party when it is “on,” rather than at home alone when the social power is out?  What constitutes its animation?  And what energies does sophistication consume?

To go further, is sophistication defined by contrast — my worldliness compared to that person’s relative lack thereof?  Does it only exist in comparison to what or who seems to be in short supply of it?  Also, will my sophistication collect and store well, or will it persuade me to keep pouring into the bowl though the bowl be made of mesh?  In short, how is it that I never possess sufficient sophistication to satisfy myself or anyone else, as I raise the yardstick to him and he to me?  But at what price this game?  What is the personal cost of sophistication’s respect?

And perhaps disappointingly, what if God’s presence and activities in the world are not accessed or activated by (even theological) sophistication, but rather by what may be understood as its antithesis?  An emptying?…    an emptying out rather than a filling up?  Welcoming the mesh?  A self-knowledge that creates an approachable modesty and openness?  Pursuit of a self-awareness that allows even the prospect of death to orient one toward life?  Something that gives because it has received more than enough, and even manages to give out of its own want?  Could the death of sophistication lead to the substance of life?

How important is it to you to be of singular refinement?  To be of cultivated insight that pushes outward in a deliberate effort to block the approach of introspection?  (Just say no to soul-searching?)  Have we predetermined what we will allow to be transformative for us, in effect making the rules by which meaning will be determined, allowing no aspect or expression of Truth to be considered that does not fit within the parameters drawn by those allowances and restrictions?

And in the end, might we have a greater hope in education, beyond the “danger” of it contributing to bland sophistication?  Could education become for us instead a doorway — a doorway into the flavorful life of exposure and smallness, as it grants us the gift of knowing only that we know little?