Essay:The Paradigm of Innocence
Most people regard childhood "innocence" as an inherently positive thing. For many, this may be true. Indeed, not knowing the full nature of the tragedy that is life (understanding death, the fact that good things end, that there is not a benevolent all-protecting God watching over you (because if there is a God, it's empirically verifiable that he doesn't mind if bad things happen to you, regardless of whether or not it's for a good reason [at least in God's mind]) - it's pleasant not to have to deal with these heavy truths, and there seems to be a lightness about childhood, at least when we think back on it, that it seems to be so much better than adulthood (provided we didn't have a rough childhood where our innocence was taken away from us prematurely).
The truth may be that childhood wasn't so light as we imagine it during fits of nostalgia. But to go even further than that, I have personal experience that casts the concept of "innocence" in a negative light. Innocence terrified me. I am terrified of the things I don't know and don't understand. For me, a child who knew so little about the world, the world was a terrifying place. It's only now, as I am growing up and learning about the world, that its mysteries are being revealed to me and its shadows brought under the light. The more I know, the more I understand, the less I fear, and the stronger I become. As an innocent child, I was weak and vulnerable - and I knew it. Experience, for me, is the path towards levity. Sure, life is hard, but it's so much easier when I know exactly what to expect. And what not to expect - like knowing, as a result of decades of firsthand experience, that there can be no inhuman monsters hiding in my closet waiting to eat me. And having enough of an understanding to justify not constantly worrying about the human monsters that may be hiding there, because I know the likelihood is so slim that it's not worth getting bothered about.
Now, I don't want to say that everyone experiences innocence in this way - but that's exactly the point. Innocence is not the same thing to everyone, and it is not always a desirable state. To preserve a child's innocence because we presume that innocence is a good thing, could do damage to the child if the truth is different (as it was in my case). So in some cases, preserving a child's innocence could be more abusive than dispelling it, and we ought not to assume that it is something that should universally be protected.
And who knows, maybe a lot more people feel the way I do about innocence. After all, how often is it the child who asks to have her innocence preserved, and how often does she go out of her way to do the opposite, wanting to experience life? And when she asks us if there's a monster in the closet, do we tell her she's better off not knowing, or do we reassure her by going over and opening the closet to let her know exactly what is (and is not) in there?