Age and the Loss of Innocence

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There are those exceptional moments in life when you experience crystal clarity in thought and purpose, when all is as it should be, when all is right and good with the world. But those moments are rare, are few and far between, and they almost always occur when you’re young. As a child, you didn’t have time to formulate your own beliefs; instead, your world view hinged on the beliefs of others. The innocence of youth is a wonderful carefree time in which the mind and the heart are free from the burdens of autonomous thinking and responsibility.

Then a tragic thing happens. You grow up. You question. You doubt. The world view you subscribed to when you were young no longer seems to apply. You wake up to discover you’ve been abandoned in a hostile world that makes no sense, and you’re forced to fend for yourself, to scrap together bits and pieces of the truth as you find them, to piece together some fragmentary understanding of who you are and why you’re here. You toil in the dark without relief, with only the cold and empty void of unconsciousness for an interlude. You’re faced with the prospect of death somewhere on the horizon, yet have no knowledge of when you’ll meet it face-to-face or what will happen when that day finally comes.

This of course is a necessary thing. Without the impetus to search for the truth, you would lay on your back day and night, unmotivated, listless and without purpose. It is this very emptiness, this very despair that compels you to move forward. You venture on. You hope and you pray that the light you seek at the end of the world exists, that the faith you placed in this unnamed truth was not in vain.

And sooner or later, one way or the other, you’ll find out.

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19 thoughts on “Age and the Loss of Innocence”

  1. I love you writing. But I must say that I don’t find childhood or youth to be an innocent time, at least in my personal experience its seems to be a time when you have the least control over your life and you decisions cannot be made out of a true world view of any sort. If anything- as we grow up out free choice grows more and more and if we listen to our inner voice- then we can follow it.

  2. *sigh* You’ve captured my thoughts aptly. I think a major part of losing innocence is gaining consciousness– of the world, of our beings, and like you mentioned, our role in this tapestry called life. It’s not a bad thing in itself. I like to believe that part of the beauty the world (life) holds is seeing new patterns in ordinary things as we keep living. Perhaps we can stop longing for what was– as children– as see what is now. Beauty never really dies, we just need to view it through many different lens.

    1. I think you’re right. I do always try to see beauty in the present world. But innocence itself possesses an almost mystical quality unique to anything else I’ve encountered, and I would give anything to find it again.

  3. There is a Wordworth poem which has been going around my mind since yesterday (I think I quoted part of it in another comment) and the poem describes exactly this. Here are teh first two verses:

    Intimations of Immortality from Recollections of Early Childhood

    THERE was a time when meadow, grove, and stream,
    The earth, and every common sight,
    To me did seem
    Apparell’d in celestial light,
    The glory and the freshness of a dream.
    It is not now as it hath been of yore;—
    Turn wheresoe’er I may,
    By night or day,
    The things which I have seen I now can see no more.

    The rainbow comes and goes,
    And lovely is the rose;
    The moon doth with delight
    Look round her when the heavens are bare;
    Waters on a starry night
    Are beautiful and fair;
    The sunshine is a glorious birth;
    But yet I know, where’er I go,
    That there hath pass’d away a glory from the earth.

    1. That poem echoes how I feel about the world now. When I was a child, there was a magic in the air, no matter where I went. But once I grew up, the magic was lost. I’ve rediscovered some of it through my sense of wonder at the world, but it just isn’t the same.

  4. My first memories were flooded with the knowledge that a whole lot more was going on in the world than I understood. Those crystal clear moments were not when everything was as it should be but when I knew exactly what I was supposed to be doing. And these have increased with age.

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