When was the last time you had an under-water tea party?
The exact moment innocence is lost is up for debate. Does it happen when you leave home? Does it happen when a beloved dies? Does it happen when you give yourself wholly to another, in mind or in body?
I’ve always thought that there would be a certain age where I felt like a grown-up, but I’m not sure that’s how it works. You get treated like one more and more until the new pressures, new expectations, new modes of conversation convince you that you must be an adult. Why else would people address you like this?
But what happens when conversations with family and friends begin to sound the same? What happens when conversations start with questions on new cities, new achievements, new schools, new accolades, new relationships, new… until it all feels old?
When was the last time you spent the evening cycling, blowing warm onto your hands?
There comes a time where one forgets how to do nothing: assignments, achievements, deliverables, deadlines, emails, obligations. Perhaps this is the true marker of a lost innocence: when one’s aspirations feel stale, rehearsed, when the balance tips so that the future seems duller than the past, when the imagination withers so one no longer imagines like William Blake describes:
To see a World in a Grain of Sand
And a Heaven in a Wild Flower,
Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand
And eternity in an hour
For some, this loss comes early, for others it comes later. One wonders if it is possible for it never to come at all. But one thing is for certain: when one loses one’s imagination, one loses the will to live for. Is not imagination also humanity?
When was the last time you did nothing and wondered how life could be so perfect?
Innocence is lost when one turns to see the castle but now the gate is closed, the sun has set, and beauty no longer resides in the castle but in the metal gate that will withstand infinite time. Innocence is lost when one realizes innocence is something that must be protected at all.
And yet, perhaps, in the most fleeting of moments, innocence and youth can be recaptured. If innocence is lost when imagination and aspirations are spurned, when innocence is realized as a concept at all, then perhaps one only need forget. Forget the present, the past, the future, be as aimless as you were before you were born. Perhaps then the gate will creak open, and the castle’s lights will once more be set alight, so that all the lives of our past — the illusions, the dreams, the grievances — can be countenanced, reckoned with, danced with beneath the pale moonlight. But perhaps the gate may always stay shut. Perhaps one can only imagine the lights of the castle? Perhaps that is enough.
When was the last time you lay on your back, pointing out constellations, wondering how the universe became so grand?