Thursday, August 21, 2008

What is the age of innocence?

What if you could travel back to that moment in time before you saw the negative side of life, before you learned that bad things sometimes come into our lives, or even before you learned about the concept of death?
I think that most of us have layers of innocence, and as we grow older and experience more, these layers get stripped away. Each person's life is different; at the end, some are left with a few layers, some are stripped bare, and then there are those who seem impermeable to life's tragedies, those who appear unaffected or are perhaps unaware. You may call these people oblivious, you may call them lucky.
When we are young, we may have grandparents, pets, or neighbors who pass away. For most of us, this is our first encounter with death; this is the first time we experience a loss.
As we become teens, we develop a sense of invincibility; we can do whatever we want, we will never die, and nothing can hurt us (at least not physically, though our egos are quite easily bruised).
As we enter young adulthood, we have perhaps become slightly less invincible and slightly more human, but are ready to take on life nonetheless. We have things to prove and goals to achieve. We may have suffered mildly, maybe a broken heart or two, but perhaps having experienced these small tragedies has actually given us a false sense of wisdom.
As we attempt to conquer the world, we begin to face new challenges, such as work, dealing bosses and co-workers, fitting in, paying bills and having real relationships, we often find that life is not how we imagined it would be. It's harder. It does not look like the scenes we painted in our minds several years before. Maybe we begin to see that life, can at times, be cruel.
And another layer falls away.
As I ponder these things, I am reminded of the book Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger. In high school, I had to read this book. I remember my English teacher saying that Holden was trying to recapture his innocence, or was at least mourning the loss of it. At my young age, I did not understand exactly what she meant; how could I?
Lately, I have been thinking about censorship and what protecting the young really means (my thoughts were actually prompted by another blog I have recently begun to read).
Do we seek to preserve the innocence of our children (or children in general, i.e. the younger generation) in a futile attempt to recapture something which is impossible, that is, our own lost sense of innocence and naivety?

1 comment:

Jacqueline Smith said...

I was quite pleased to come over and find a link back to my blog!
I've been pondering the questions you raised, they helped me in processing the issue I wrote about. What is the age of innocence and to what extent do we censor what we expose to the young in the (vain?) hope of recapturing our own innocence. What you said about people maturing at different paces rings true to me. And so does your description of the process of growing up.

We all have varying notions of what is good for the young. As you suggest- we also have all sorts of motivations for protecting them. What do you think would be a general rule of thumb? For instance, would it be safe to say that once a child asks he's mature enough to know?