There is innocence in life that exists not simply within the confines of childhood.
It is a spirit within all of us, an impelling urge for something that rings so true within us and within life, something exemplary and authentic, something that feels like goodness, something fragile and tender and loving that we long for it, often and sincerely, and sometimes desperately.
The world can be hard and harsh with its obsessive competitiveness and its isolating values that pit people against one another. This is done in politics and in religion, in school and in work, in neighborhoods and in suburbs everywhere.
And what happens is we lose our innocence because we tell ourselves we have to fight to survive. We have to slug it out and push our way through and not care. We have to play games of cruel prejudice and of disengaging from those different from us, those not in our social status, those not of our faith, those of a race not our own.
Our dislikes begin to dominate our thoughts and actions and we lose touch with the real core of our humanity. We forget how to bend low and be humble and reach out in love. We fail to listen to conscience and soul and be led by our heart and so give in to headstrong thoughts about being right and superior and better and our smugness alienates us from people and experiences that could authenticate our humanness and that could connect us to our divinity.
It is in this awareness that I sometimes think of a line in Bob Seger’s old song, “Running Against the Wind,” when thinking back when he was very young he says, “Wish I didn’t know now what I didn’t know then.”
In Kate DiCamillo’s brilliant children’s book, “The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane,” we follow the experiences of a special rabbit. Edward Tulane is made of porcelain and is covered in expensive outfits and has real looking whiskers. He is pampered and lives in luxury and takes everything he has for granted. He is selfish and impolite and unfeeling.
Through a series of remarkable and sometimes scary life experiences Edward comes to see how dependent he is on others in order to be authentic and real. After misfortune, terrible wounding and near death, he discovers the power of kindness and how far love will go to show the depth of one’s heart.
And in all of this Edward discovers he has a heart, too, because he learns how to feel and care and how to cry.
When he finds himself among some hobos he admits he is lost and afraid. And one of the hobos says, “Perhaps you would like to be lost with us. I have found it much more agreeable to be lost in the company of others.”
This is how we recapture our innocence. We learn the interconnectedness of life, that it’s not a consistently straight line leading to a pot of gold under a rainbow that we find on our own. But that life is accepting our participation in it and the growing of a self whatever the costs. And realizing there will be some costs.
© 2012 Timothy Moody