Sophistication is a dangerous quality and often very deceptive. What looks sophisticated – refined, subtle, intelligent, worldly - can actually be remarkably stupid and naïve.
The word suggests wisdom (sofia). But when it was applied to the sophist school of philosophy it was associated with making money out of teaching wisdom and with complicating and adulterating the purity of truth.
Many of our higher institutes of education today, too, are very sophisticated and complex organizations. They have huge budgets and are run by financial motivation but they no longer arouse and cultivate the love of truth and learning in their students.
Religion has the same fate as education when it becomes too sophisticated. Theological hair-splitting, pharisaical worship of rules, depersonalised ways of worship replace true spirituality.
In these last days of Lent, the scripture readings take us deeper into the markedly unsophisticated and genuinely wise self-awareness of Jesus. It was this that made him the extraordinary yet empathically human being whose experience has such universal, trans-cultural significance. We listen with attention to his words and look with wonder at his life and death not because he was a polished, smooth talking sophisticate but for other reasons..
Sophistication often conceals strong self-doubt and confusion. Jesus is a universal teacher because he knows himself and is clear. He therefore conveys the personal simplicity and authenticity associated with any experience of truth itself. Such people are conspicuous because they deserve to be trusted. The over-sophisticated by contrast are cynical, trusting in nothing. The simple are warriors whose only weapon is love. For that very reason they are seen - and rejected - as foolish or dangerously radical.
Meditation is not for sophisticated people. To learn to meditate we need to trust ourselves to the pure simplicity of truth found within our own experience. Even more than the force of other people’s wise ideas or words, and far deeper than smart worldliness, it is the integrity of our own experience that brings us to life.
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