What is innocence? No one seems to quite know, or at least know how to define it. Is it a concept, an idea, a state of mind? Is it intrinsic or developed?
To some, innocence is the absence of evil thoughts and evil behavior. What is evil? some ask. That’s where the definition falls apart. Some believe evil exists on its own, a potent force against good. I don’t think so, though. Evil is just the perversion of what is good. Sex is good. Rape is bad. Rape does not exist on its own; it’s just a twisted version of sex by people whose minds are ill. Alcohol is not intrinsically evil; it is when people misuse it that it becomes a problem.
Sometimes this definition of innocence is taken farther. To some, the innocent have no concept of evil at all. Everything is good, everything is bright. The innocent are lambs to the slaughter. Yet where does that phrase come from? It comes from the Bible, of course. Christ was the lamb to the slaughter, and was wholly innocent; but He was not naïve or foolish. There’s another verse that sort of destroys this concept of innocence. “Be as wise as serpents and gentle as doves.” Innocence is not lack of knowledge, or foolishness. It is the studied refusal of the evil that seeks to deceive.
What is innocence then? In legal terms, it means one has not committed a crime. The legal terms are very, very specific. One can be innocent of murder while still be guilty of assault. One can be innocent of theft while still being guilty of helping the thieves. The legal definition can hardly be applied to real life.
Innocence is often described as being “closer to nature”. To some, the growing technology and artificial goods is a sign of growing evil. If we returned to a simpler way of life, we would be happier. This could be true to a point. But “returning to nature” does not guarantee the peace and love that supposedly comes from innocence. Is the lion innocent even as it sinks its teeth into the antelope’s throat? Does that innocence come from the need for a meal, or some the fact that the lion is not sentient-it is acting purely on instinct; it is a carnivore. Would we as sentient beings need to become vegetarians or vegans to be truly innocent?
But I don’t think any of these definitions quite encompass the term. See, unless one lives under a rock, one cannot be blithely, unknowingly innocent. We must live in the world, and interact with the world, good and bad. Innocence must be cultivated. Not naivete, innocence. To fight against the urges to think wicked thoughts, to fight the urges to believes ourselves better than those around us, to fight against the dreadful actions that make our world miserable. This, I believe, is true innocence. It is much more difficult, and much more complex, than anyone imagines.
A/N: Also known as "Erica babbles pretentiously"