Sophistication kills Authenticity

Last Friday, I had a wonderful chat with a friend I had not met for years. She has come back to Mauritius to visit her mother who is not enjoying good health these days. She has taken a sabbatical year from her American university teaching job to write on the influence France had on the Chinese society in the years 1850 onwards. Previously she had written a thesis on the Taiping rebellion which would be China of 1850’s. She will be traveling soon to China to collect data for her writings.

During our conversation, she shared her views on how the world is getting more complex and sophisticated, bringing in less authenticity in human behavior. She is for sure a learned person yet she has stayed very simple & humble.

On her trip from Paris to Mauritius, to her great surprise, she was told at the check in counter that she will be upgraded. The biggest surprise was she was upgraded to first class. She really felt awkward during her fight; she was a fish out of water, to travel in such an environment. Although she enjoyed the comfort of the amenities, the armchair turning to a flat bed, she felt uneasy with the put up show of service by the crew. There was no genuineness. She did not enjoy the lengthy bar service, choice of drinks and wines and the 3 course meals offered with much pomp and ceremony. What a waste she thought! What she missed was the warm atmosphere in the din and enthusiasm of the economy class travel where it was possible to exchange with your neighbors and to enter in a human to human conversation.

First class travel to her was physically super in comfort but lacking in human touch. The neighbor was polite but seems to transmit the message, “I have paid a lot of money not to be disturbed”. There was absolute silence and a cold atmosphere.

Like wise, she shared with me her excitement in traveling in public buses from Sainte Croix to Port Louis. The atmosphere though chaotic, noisy, even disorderly at times is lively and full of human interactions. Guys talking to each other across three rows of other passengers, the kids shouting, whilst the conductor was eating his morning roti are all part of the fun. She found there and then authenticity in life.

Indeed the lessons I retained from my friend: humility & simplicity yield authenticity.


#1 Olivier on 09.20.06 at 6:03 am

Sophistication in my opinion does not necessarily kill authenticity, but rather hubris, ego and arrogance. We are all guilty (I’m talking for myself, but I assume it applies to many other people as well!) of those things every once in a while, but it is a real problem when those attributes become an integral part of an individual’s personality.

But I digress. I agree, humility and simplicity do yield authenticity.

#2 joseph on 09.20.06 at 9:41 pm

True. Sophistication gives us the appearance of being knowledgeable, intelligent…More often it immediately creates a barrier to genuine relationship.

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