Sophistication is the title of one of the chapters of Winesburg, Ohio. The novel itself is one of my all-time favorites. I would love to be able to write a novel just like this.
I say all this because I often feel inspired by some of the images in the novel. In darker moments, I feel like the man with a pocket full of paper pills. The final story, Departure, resonates with me and my departure from my home town.The Strength of God informs some of my religious history.
But it is the story called Sophistication, that compels me the most. It’s not so much what happens with Helen White at all. For me, it signals the loss of innocence. It’s after George becomes more ‘sophisticated’ about the world that he decides to leave Winesburg.
I’ve often thought of sophistication as the opposite of innocence. In matters of faith, I can be too sophisticated for my own good. It’s true that I do not believe that the earth is 6000 years old. Sometimes I think that Job and 2 Peter got into the Bible by ‘accident’ as if such a thing was possible. I struggle to reconcile Ecclesiastes and the life of Jesus. What is wisdom, anyway?
For all the ‘reality’ that so-called informed opinions can provide, these things get in the way of simple faith. I don’t mean ignorant faith, especially not the blissfully ignorant type of faith. I mean the simple faith where certain parameters of fixed and unchanging.
God is love. It’s easy to say, but when deconstructing the Old Testament, it is easy to lose sight of this simple fact. Another one is, God does not tempt, we are all tempted by our own desires. James makes it clear, but it is so easy to claim that God is testing us when we feel tempted the most.God does not tempt, we are all tempted by our own desires. It happens more times than I want to admit.
Sometimes reading the Bible brings up all kinds of voices in my mind telling me that some of the fundamentals I believe about God are somehow all wrong. I know that God is not Absent, but I keep thinking about life, trials, and other things in terms of God Being Absent. I know that faith is a communal activity, yet I continue to look for individual expression and minimize (or eliminate!) activity with the body of believers. It’s been called Practical Atheism, but that’s not entirely accurate because it only describes the external actions. It’s the inability to work through sophisticated thoughts.
I used to pray to stop having sophisticated thoughts (what is middle knowledge anyway?), but now I am going to stop that. Instead I will pray to work through these sophisticated ideas.
This was brought on by watching my son. He is almost five and has developed a very sophisticated manner of speech for a child his age. Much less, a hard of hearing child his age. His IEP had a goal of using the passive voice in a spoken sentence. He does. His vocabulary is quite large. He can tell a complex story involving multiple characters. His fantasy world is much richer than mine.
I enjoyed him as a toddler and an infant. Don’t get me wrong. I just thought he was a real joy. Now, though, I find that I really enjoy his abilities with words and language. I like that he can understand certain social situations easily. There’s something about his sophistication (there’s that word again) that draws me to him. I enjoy him, just as he is.
And so I like to think that God enjoys me, too. Despite the sophisticated thoughts in my head, God enjoys me, one of his creations.