The Wisdom of Innocence

I wonder sometimes if the simple wisdom we attain as kids is often superior to what we think we know as adults.  Because then, when we were young, it was all so new, and since we were experiencing the world for the first time, new experiences came to us pure and unfiltered through the minds of others.  No one had yet told us how to think and discriminate.  The first sunset we saw must have been the most beautiful we’ll ever know, because we saw it for what it was: illuminating, mesmerizing, mysterious.

Now that I’m older, I rank sunsets.  I can tell you that yesterday’s was more beautiful than today’s, and that the best sunset I ever saw was over Yosemite Valley, in California, when the sun found a sliver of sky on the western horizon through which it lit from below the clouds hanging over the valley and set them aflame.  I can tell you how the normally white cliffs surrounding the valley glowed orange and curved toward the sky like a tidal wave of molten lava about to break on the fragile green valley below.

But how can a sunset over Yosemite compare to the first one I ever saw, when one sunset was all sunsets and all sunsets were beautiful, when ranking was neither necessary nor possible?  Then again, maybe, when I’m struck with awe, I’m actually recalling my first experience of it and I’m feeling it as strongly in the present as I did when I was a boy.  Maybe awe is a state in which we forget to pick apart what we’re seeing, to rank it, to categorize it, to place it alongside other experiences and judge it against them.  Maybe in that moment we slip back into our childhood selves and see the world for what it is.  That feels right.

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About atomsofthought
Teacher. Traveler. Writer. Reader.

10 Responses to The Wisdom of Innocence

  1. pattisj says:

    Very thoughtful post.

  2. That does feel right. When I am in awe, my mind literally goes blank. For some reason, I just can’t bring any words to my mind. I will try – I feel poetic and the writer in me will want to write the moment – but the words just won’t come. They refuse. I can’t articulate, even to myself, what I am feeling.

    And that is what I’m doing, I’m seeing and feeling. It wells inside me and perhaps it fills me so full that there is no room for words, no room for active thought. I am forced to be still, to be quiet, to simply appreciate.

    I have no memories of my first sunset, of my first anything of that nature. Perhaps they’re in there somewhere, but I can’t reach them. It seems to me that you’re right, and that being in awe is like seeing it as a child would, as though it were for the very first time. I feel that way every time I see the ocean. No matter where I am, I have the same feelings every time – amazement, sheer joy, insignificance of self, wonder at the magnitude of the world, connected. I have the same feelings every time and I am surprised by them, every time. It’s wonderful.

    There is a wisdom in innocence, in not ranking sunsets, in feeling and experiencing without thinking it to death, in letting life flow over you and not having the sense to try and stop the flood.

    • I totally to relate to your experience of seeing the ocean. It hits me like that every time. I’m dumbstruck and mute. It’s nice. Isn’t it strange that you can feel that way when you’re in the presence of the ocean, yet later on you can put together a description of it that is rich in detail and that sometimes can convey this feeling of speechlessness through words, even though words were precisely what was missing in the moment.

  3. Beautiful conclusion.

  4. Christina Cronk says:

    Well said, I couldn’t agree more!

  5. Excellent essay. I think you’re on to something here.

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