Loss of Innocence

A few weeks ago, I got an assignment to make a piece on the theme of “Loss of Innocence”. It was very open-ended, anything goes. What I came up with was a type of poem, but ever since then I’ve been thinking about the concept of innocence. In my class, some people recounted personal moments of having lost innocence, and others spoke of moments in which they facilitated someone else’s loss. My favorite piece was a flash video featuring a classmate who claims to have never lost his innocence, culminating in a list of what he still believes in which includes unicorns and rainbows.

What really got me thinking was how the opposite of innocence can be two things. In one sense, it can be guilt- as in you’re on trial for murder and a jury of your peers (or an approximation of this) can find you either innocent or guilty. No one from the class really explored this meaning of innocence, maybe because in the way the assignment was given, you were already thinking of innocence as something else.

The other antonym I found for “innocence” was wisdom. In many ways, innocence can be tied to naiveté when viewed in a positive light- or if you’re being negative, innocence is related to ignorance. This makes sense on so many levels- it’s embedded in our culture. Adam and Eve’s fall from Eden is due to their gaining wisdom. Prior to this, they had been unmarked by sin or the world, and thus were “innocent”. A child is considered the living illustration of innocence, and yet as a child grows and learns more about the nature of things, bit by bit their innocence is lost. And in our culture, there is nothing better than seeing the pristine virgin-like character become wise to the ways of the world. Preserving innocence means remaining willfully ignorant of evil truths, but also ignorant of experiences and opportunities for growth. So when my classmates described the moment of losing their innocence:

– as seeing a parent weakened,
-or finding out they were a high-school badass,
-or learning four-letter words,

they were describing moments of clarity, or learning. These were moments in which they grew beyond themselves. In many cases, they would rather have stayed where they were, happily ignorant- but then life would be stagnate.

In this light, a loss of innocence can be something to celebrate.

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