Is innocence actually possible? Once we grow up, have we outgrown innocence because we know “reality”? Is everything we do to recreate innocence false and foolish? That is what the world will try to tell you. And we are here to tell you why that is so wrong.
To a lot of Western people innocence = ignorance. We are only innocent because we don’t know or haven’t experienced what they like to call “real life”.
From this view a lot of other things follow, so it is important for us to understand what innocence actually is.
What are the things that follow from the innocence = ignorance equation? Let’s look at some of them.
• If innocence = ignorance, then once we “know” it is gone. It cannot be recovered.
• If we do “know” then any attempt at innocence is false.
• People cultivating an innocent style and enjoying innocent things are
• Deceiving other people and putting up a false front.
• Deceiving themselves and imagining they can return to a more childlike state when in fact their knowledge of “reality” has trapped them forever in non-innocence (or, to use the terms of those who dislike innocence “given them a realistic view of the world”).
This view of innocence as ignorance is deeply embedded in the modern Western view of the world. It accounts for a lot of the cynicism that we see engrained in the entire current western culture.
What is the answer to this?
Well let us begin by asking, what is this “reality” that the West is so proud of.
On the surface it consists of two things.
1. A belief (founded on the “Freudian revolution” of the early 20th century) that “sex” is central to the human psychological condition.
2. A belief that the world is inherently hostile and therefore we have to be constantly on our guard.
However these two already-dubious assertions have become largely excuses for something else. That something else is what the Narnia-professor, C.S. Lewis called the “Saturnian” culture of the 20th century. An attraction to things that are dark and negative.
Let us take just a few things at random. An acquaintance started a beautiful fashion boutique, and named it “The Dubious Armoire”. A blogger presents absolutely beautiful anime-inspired wallpapers and wonderful information on Japanese language, and calls it “The Jaded Network”. A reasonably charming Lolita site contains an implied swear-word in its title.
If these were isolated instances, they would not be important. But you, dear reader, know they are not. You know that it is almost compulsory to include a “negative” or “dark” element in anything that aspires to be beautiful or bright. An art network full of lovely things must be called “Deviant Art”. This cynicism, this belief that anything beautiful must also be “warped”, “twisted” etc. is deeply embedded in popular culture.
Now compare this with Japanese names for places where we may find beautiful things. “Angelic Pretty”, “Fairy Wish”.
Now here is the fundamental point: Which of these two sets of attitudes is natural? What does a normal, healthy person want? Does she want happiness or does she prefer sadness? Does she want things to be pure and good, or does she want them to be warped and “deviant”? Does she want Light, or does she want Darkness?
I think once we put it this way, the answer is clear. The pure, open, innocent happy things are what we naturally want. The yearning for darkness and twistedness is not natural to us. It is something we learn, and it is wrong. Really it is as simple as that.
So – it is true that once we learn to like nasty things, our innocence is gone, and to that degree, innocence = ignorance.
BUT, here is the point: Innocence does not equal ignorance of truth. It equals ignorance of certain falsehoods. If the opposite of innocence were the truth then innocence would be lost. In order to keep innocence we would have to deny the truth. So we would either be deceiving others or deceiving ourselves.
But what if the “knowledge” that denies innocence is a lie? What if innocence is natural and true – the simple longing for what is good and light and pure? What if cynicism is just the willful embrace of darkness?
In that case, “knowledge” does not destroy innocence. Because we can know the lie as much as we are forced to. But we do not believe it. Only if the lie were true would knowledge destroy innocence.
So are we saying that modern western popular culture is based on a lie? To a large extent, yes, we are. The pursuit of darkness, selfishness, “sex” and coarseness are deeply ingrained in much of the culture. And this is not natural, it is not right and it does not represent any kind of truth.
In seeking innocence, happiness and beauty, we are seeking the things a person naturally wants. The right and true things. And in doing so we find a deeply cynical and unnatural culture opposed to us. That is why we call ourselves musume senshi. Because in order to be innocent and pure one has to have at least a little of the heroic warrior spirit.
When we see magical girls in anime, sometimes we may think it a bit odd that there are always these cackling villains with plans to take over the world and turn it into a dark place – to make the heart-flowers wilt, to drain everyone of her energy etc. It may seem like a rather awkward plot-device. But actually it is rooted deeply in the nature of things. Wherever there is light, darkness will oppose it. If we want to be good and pure, there will be cackling villains telling us that only darkness and coarseness and “twistedness” are real.
We do not have to go out and defeat those villains. But we do have to do something that requires courage and fortitude. We have to defeat them in our hearts.
And if we do that, then we can regain our innocence with absolute authenticity, however much it has been assaulted and battered by the forces of darkness.
Like the Magical Girls in the anime, we can triumph through determination and fortitude, even when defeat seemed certain. We can expose the lie and return to our true, natural, and pure state of innocence.
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