Innocence is something that we seem to admire and protect. It is that openness, those eyes, that trust, the radiant luster that is attractive because it is easy to deal with. We don’t have to figure someone out. We don’t have to watch our backs, we know that a smiling face is a smiling face and not a mask.
This is supposedly sacred, we abhor innocence being taken advantage of. But as adults, we have learned that one can ill afford such innocence–our guidance system is carefully tuned to beware, even while yearning for those we can trust.
Yes, there are the predators, the people who use the innocent as food to feed their own maladaptations, but most of us do not assault innocence in such an obvious and predatory manner, we do it by making it so sacred, by holding it in such high regard. We do it by feeling sad about our own loss of innocence, by carrying the scars of loss, by not trusting while searching for trust.
It may well be a fact that in economically advantaged countries, we prolong innocence in our children. The world will have at them soon enough we reason. So the age of dependency extends into early adulthood. Children return home, if they left. They return for money, or because of divorce, or to dump off their own kids so they can practice being children themselves, the so-called adultolescence.
It is not that we need to perform a service to our children or ourselves by demonstrating early and hard just how tough the world is. But we might consider teaching the innocent the skill of making distinctions and we might consider teaching the wary the art of becoming the trust they seek. We might do this by teaching that all decisions involve at least three facets: what we choose, what we don’t choose, and that choices lead to diminishing choices.
To remember what we’ve chosen is to embrace our responsibility and our creations.
To remember what we haven’t chosen embraces the power of contrasts, the opposing motions that strengthen our choices in the first place.
To remember that choices lead to narrowing our range of choices is to embrace the kind of innocence that is cohesive and not diffuse, one that is able to make distinctions about what will work and what will not.
Can we choose to not get involved?
No, we cannot. It is an illusion and not a reality. Choosing to not get involved is an involvement, it affects those around us. There are no neutral corners, in any choice.
We need more backbone, more courage, more recognition and honesty about how our behaviors affect the context in which we exist, not just how the context affects our behaviors. The former is mostly about intent, the latter mostly about reaction.
The irony is the more we become aware about the process of refining our choices and our intent, the more we become aware that in the long run, the less choice we have.
There is a broad spectrum involved in understanding this concept. It is not just about choosing with whom we associate, it is about remembering why we chose those with whom we will not.
It is not just about choosing a mate, but remembering why we didn’t choose someone else.
It is not just about choosing a car, but about remembering why we didn’t choose some other brand.
It is not just about choosing a job or career, but about remembering why we didn’t choose another job or career.
If one chooses to smoke cigarettes for example, at some point one has little choice in the outcome. The same is true for alcohol or drugs. When one chooses to be ethical or moral, eventually other options are no longer viable. Insert any scenario and one comes up with the same range of options–choice and intent ultimately narrow the range of our ability to choose.
This seems to be true regardless of the strength or deliberateness of our choices or our intentions. And it is also true regarding our abilities to create critical periods or in choosing our responses to events.
When we learn the ability of re-setting our guidance system as can be done in a critical period, soon we will not have a choice, the re-setting ability is something that has to be done (and maybe it can be done without the drama of critical periods).
When we learn that our responses to events may be much more in our control than the events themselves (though I think we tend to set those events up, being hit by an asteroid aside), we have paved the way for the nature of our responses, it is no longer a choice, having already been chosen.
While we go from the world of having broad options into the world of narrowed ones, regardless of what we know or not, perhaps we might consider the power of intent.
Innocence is not a loss in this world, but a shift from diffused awareness to focused awareness.
Trust is not lost, we become it or not (these things exist whether we manifest them or not).
Wonder is not lost, there is far too much mystery for that to ever really occur.
With intent, we can be less afflicted, and rationalization and blame and angst can be swept aside in favor of embracing our deliberately created futures from a now that is not weighed down by a past burdened with loss.
In that world there are not decisions foisted upon us while we merely react, but decisions that we intend, knowing the range of probability outcomes, even if we have yet to live the actual outcome.
And we move our energy, our life force, from tracking the predators of our now, towards acceptance of our creations, which frees up our energy to live rather than to regret.
This is not an idyllic picture, it is not the solution and there will be problems–all solutions create more problems even as all problems have more than one solution. Whatever the problems or whatever the solutions, perhaps we will have opened the door of fearing loss, to step into a world of intentionally creating futures. In that world, in that now, lies the potential to live in true beauty and openness.