WHAT IS SOPHISTICATION?

By William Markiewicz

Is it worth it to dwell on the question? Sometimes words that contain an automatic bias deserve analysis to separate the grain from the chaff.

Sophistication, if self conscious, may become snobbistic, an empty gesture of self-appreciation. Authentic sophistication takes itself for granted.

For me sophistication results when people change focus from social to individual. This is probably a sign of evolution. Let's not forget though, that primitive doesn't mean inferior with its wonderful legends, art and instruments.

Primitive art is expressed in rituals of creeds, daily life, seasons, basic instincts ... Sophistication is characterized by widened horizons, meaning simultaneity in diversity that unifies various factors toward some unexpected blend. Sophistication is an indirect approach to various simultaneous contents and situations without getting lost in confusion.

For me, sophistication in art is particularly expressed in two branches: erotic poetry and poetry for children. Both express feelings and in feelings sophistication manifests spontaneously, without alteration by intellect, intention, or tradition . I will quote for example an old urban Polish romance song and one Polish children's song.

1)
"On the streets of Barcelona
That's where I encountered you
The glass, the flame, the wine are burning
Your wicked nights are burning too.
.....
On the dancefloor in the darkness
I feel your body heat
You constantly lie to me about love
But your words are deafened by the din.

Sorry I couldn't translate the rhyme. Still the essence is there. His loneliness in togetherness, his thirst for love and the barrier between him and her... It is not literature but the ordinary city song; only this ordinary guy inhabits a rather sophisticated level.

2)
There was scary Baba Yaga (in Slavic tales Baba Yaga is a witch)
From butter was made her home
In this home dogs and cats
And the spark is gone.

What does it mean, 'the spark is gone'? Well, while telling a fairy tale to his grandchild, grandfather's pipe goes out so he has to stop telling the tale, light his pipe again or perhaps clean its ashes first... What is the child doing? The child has no patience, cannot wait and finds another occupation. So the story continues:

I have a huge clown with a cap
that constantly spins on a string.
He moves his hands, moves his legs,
always jolly, without fear.
This little clown of mine.

A completely new situation and melody with no warning and still it matches perfectly. If we can disregard such a quantum jump without being warned and without interrupting the flow of thought and feeling, then the writer has described the sophistication of his society without noticing it -- as Monsieur Dupont spoke in prose without knowing it. Why did I write about it? Because I'm fascinated by all spontaneous mental processes, especially when the individual and collective blend, not to the advantage of the collective but, on the contrary, when the individual supercedes the collective.

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