Naïveté: the state or quality of being naive; ingenuousness; simplicity
This word comes from the French language, and originally denoted a state of naturalness or innocence. At one time people used it positively, with no stigma attached. How about now? When you describe someone as naive you are usually condemning them for their inexperience, lack of knowledge, or downright ineptitude. It's certainly not a compliment. This change in meanings signals a change in mindset that has sunk so deeply into our brains that it is hardly recognized as an opinion.
I'm not certain whether or not this mindset is isolated in modern-day America or if it is common to most men in all places in all times, but it has certainly permeated many areas in our culture. This is the mindset of sophistication, characterized by a downright fear of naïveté. We try to sophisticate everything: investing, relationships, education, art, generosity, fashion, careers, etcetera, etcetera, etcetera. Sure, there are a few lazy slobs who couldn't care less, but the prevailing theme in our culture seems to be that if it isn't complicated, isn't dramatic, isn't mature, then it's not worth having or doing.
No simple, fun-loving, childish abandonment for us, no sir! No belief in a God we cannot see, no sir! No real joy in living in this wondrous world, no sir! We need to be sophisticated, we need to sexualize preteens, we need to invest in opportunities we can't even understand, we need to have the best and most expensive of everything.
Innocence is way out of vogue.
What would happen if we weren't afraid to be natural and innocent? What if we weren't afraid to put up blinders and neglect the seedy headlines for once and indulge in a little childish wonder? “Truly I say to you, unless you are converted and become like children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven." Our Lord calls us to humble ourselves, a novel and largely unwelcome concept. We are to be as innocent as doves. While not forgetting to also be as shrewd as serpents, we must realize that we are not called to be sophisticated, we are called to be childlike. The sophisticate is proud because he lives in a world he claims not to understand, the naif is humble because he lives in a world he knows he understands completely. Which one are you?
(17) impromptu adventures....the child is still in all of us, a photo by fishgirl7 on Flickr.