From the work in progress Life: A Book About Learning to Live
By Jim Rosemergy
To recover my innocence is to rediscover my genuine self.
As I’ve grown older, I’ve noticed that a cynicism has crept into my thought and words. I’m not as positive as I used to be. I tend to dwell upon what I consider wrong with the world rather than what could be. When I debate with myself about the state of my soul, I realize that my logical and defensive self prefers to think that I now have a mature and realistic perspective on life, but nagging at me is the thought that it is not so much that I have gained a new perspective as it is that I have lost something.
I have lost my innocence. I wish I could find it again, but how can I reacquire what I had as a child? And is it reasonable to believe that an adult can recover his or her innocence? Isn’t innocence something precious that every adult loses as the years go by?
Children are innocent. Because they are young, they have not experienced the pain and suffering that comes as life is lived, but there are children who have experienced more trauma and horror than many adults. Although they are young, they have lost their innocence. Innocence is not lost because of the march of time. We lose our grasp on it because we are engaged in hand to hand combat with life’s challenges.
The real casualty of this struggle is our genuine selves. We feel pain, we suffer, and then we try to protect ourselves. We don’t ever want to hurt again. We no longer embrace life with outstretched arms. We fold them over our chests and watch and wait. We are hesitant when once we were curious, bold, and daring. The authentic self stands in the shadows, and a false image that looks like us takes its place and tries to live our lives, but because it is not genuine, it feels a sense of loss. This is what has happened to me. I’ve lost my innocence, but the real casualty was my genuine self.
I think that being innocent is being genuine. At first children are genuine. What you see is what you get. This genuineness is the source of their innocence. To be innocent is to live an authentic life. It is to suffer and to feel pain, but to continue to bring from the shadows who we really are. Neither time nor circumstance causes us to lose our innocence. It is our choice to hide who we are that causes the innocence to flee. To be ever innocent is to have experienced the difficulties of human experience and to have remained curious, bold, and daring.
When we lose our innocence, we hide our true selves from the world. We erect a tough facade that puts distance between us and others or that says we will not be hurt again. Another self emerges, a false one, whose purpose is protection from life rather than the living of life. To recover our innocence is to rediscover our genuine selves. It is to become vulnerable again as we were when we were children. It is to be burned by the flame of the candle, but to return after our tears are wiped away to examine the flame more closely. It is to move closer and feel the heat, and finally to flick our finger quickly through the flame and smile because we know the nature of the fire.
The truth is there is no protection from life. The innocence that is the lack of experience is not true innocence. True innocence is being true to ourselves and willing to return to flick our finger through the flame.
The next time you find yourself trying to protect yourself from some experience, look around you and you will find that your true self is in retreat. Call the one from the shadows and ask it to assume its place as the liver of your life, and it will bring with it innocence.