My daughter goes to a school where everybody sings. It’s part of the curriculum and the children, even the middle school boys, are remarkably unselfconscious about it. In High School, choir becomes an elective. There is some attrition. Last night, grades four through eight performed. I watched them, their mouths forming perfect O’s through the long “oh!” of Alouette. They are completely innocent.
I am not.
Innocence, like virginity, is not lost. Lost things can be found. Innocence is slain or sacrificed, stolen or bestowed. And in the place of slain Innocence stands Knowledge- knowledge of evil, of failure, of death. But, from the corpus atop which Knowing stakes his claim, rises Hope wrapping ghostly arms around him. And although you can strengthen Knowing, brutalize Hope, she is Innocence Dead and cannot be killed again. Stronger than the living was, she survives and cradles Knowing in cool, smoky arms. And he, the proud warrior, strides away from lifeless Innocence, brushing the clinging shroud of Hope from his shoulders only to find her twined about his legs.
A friend of mine recently correlated innocence with dreaming, with the ability to believe in, or even have, dreams. I am no innocent. But I have a dream that may just be coming true, and I don’t want to brag and I sure don’t want to jinx it, but I’m feeling really good these days. I feel powerful and centered. I feel hopeful. It’s a dangerous place to be.
When Knowing hesitates, Hope transcends, and binding him, becomes almost Innocence again, believes in things again, radiates and plunges into the sea she tried to cross barefoot. She is a ghost, after all, and has a very weak grip on reality. Knowing and Hoping have been locked in mortal tango in me since I was a few years older than my daughter is now. Hope growing corporeal, beginning to make choices for me, leading me happy, wanting, down sweet paths to deep sewers. Knowledge mucking it out, rippling forearms breaking faith and dreams to feed his horse Responsibility.
It’s not such a bad horse. I rode it here.
A full two years ago, I came up with an idea for a business, for a thing I wanted to make. I worked for a while on one part of it, but it cost too much since I’m trying to source everything through fair trade organizations. So I switched to candles: Petroleum-, Lead- and Dogma-Free Prayer Candles. They’re done now. There’re six: Heal, Hope, Peace, Praise, Grieve and Thrive. Thing is, they’ve been really well received. In fact my dad, (whose view of reality is remarkably unclouded by phantom Hopes) offered to pay for a meeting with a patent attorney to determine if there was anything worth patenting. Which, it appears, there is.
And Hope takes the upper hand, rolling over the soldier’s torso, smoothing his ache and whispering in his ear.
I am not innocent. But I am not afraid. Perhaps Hope has me too wound within her narcotic embrace, although I can still hear the warrior speak. I know I can fail. I know desire and hard work are not always enough, and that like new marriages, half of new businesses fail. I won’t let blind Hope drive this time. I ride a plodding horse. But Hope sings to grim-mouthed Knowing and this is Optimism, who meets possible calamity with “I know it can, but hope it won’t,” who teaches Knowing a partner’s gentle grip on Hope’s lithe waist, and so I hum along, bending notes between Hope and Knowing, searching for the perfect pitch.
Come on, sing the optimism tango. It has no long “oh!”s