I never want to lose my sense of innocence.
I remember my very first kiss. It was 7th Grade, her name was Kim, and we were on a school bus heading back from a field trip. I didn’t even know her really, other than by reputation. She was one of the popular girls. But there we were, in the back of the bus, playing truth or dare with a bunch of other kids. It was a dare for her, and before I knew it, she was kissing me. I remember the sense of excitement and wonder that overcame me in that moment. A great mystery of what it would be like was suddenly revealed!
I remember the first time I stepped off of the back of the C-130 in Afghanistan. The heat, the dry breeze, and the altitude all hit me at once. There I was, in the very land where so much blood had been spilled over the centuries, where the Hindukush met me with a stark beauty.
I remember the revelation that Darth Vader was actually Luke’s father (spoiler alert!), the anxious-yet-eager feeling I had on my first day of high school, and the emotions evoked as I listened to the Carmina Burana performed live in concert.
That’s exactly the kind of innocence I’m talking about here. It’s the sense of newness, of wonder, and excitement. With how the world often works, it seems so many of us become jaded overtime, and we lose that sense of wonder that makes even the simplest things so joyful.
Now, that isn’t to say things can become old hat just because they’re not new. I’ve watched the Lord of the Rings movies dozens of times, and sometimes I’ll even watch the first disc of the Fellowship of the Ring by itself. Seeing the Shire always brings a smile to my face with its simple, quiet life and beauty. I’ve watched the first two Mummy movies (the Brendan Fraser and Rachel Weisz) a hundred times each, at least. I popped them in whenever I could while I was in Afghanistan; it seemed fitting at the time. Sure, the sense of newness is gone, but the feeling of adventure and excitement is always there.
But then I think back to some of my fondest childhood memories and how the advent of the Internet has ruined so much of it. The NeverEnding Story is a prime example of this. That movie will always have a special place in my heart. I remember watching it with my sister as a kid and we tried so hard to figure out what name Bastian gives the Childlike Empress at the end. We rewound and replayed that scene over and over trying to hear what he yells over the thunder. When that failed, we even hooked up the closed captioning machine and played it again. Alas, all we got was a caption that read [yelling]. And so, for years, the mystery remained.
That is, until just recently. I was lucky enough to foster an awesome dog for a short while, and he looked just like Falcor the Luck Dragon. That brought back all those feeling of wonder and nostalgia from my childhood. On a whim, I looked up the Wikipedia article on it, and right there, no spoiler warning or anything, is the name Bastian gave to the Childlike Empress. In an instant, the sense of wonder was gone. I alternated between disappointment, anger, and frustration. I had an answer to one of my life’s great mysteries, and I felt all the emptier for knowing it.
Maybe some questions just aren’t meant to be answered.
Or is it just that I’ve gotten older and that sense of wonder is fading? Perhaps it’s because I’ve seen and done so much, or perhaps it’s because instant gratification always seems to be less fulfilling that discovering or earning something in due course.
A friend of mine gave me a good perspective. He doesn’t get upset at knowing the endings to books or movies because it’s the journey along the way that matters. I like that attitude, and it fits right in with the entire belief of mine that instant gratification isn’t as fulfilling. I hit that cognitive dissonance, and regret that purchase I just made, or get angry about that spoiler I just read by accident scrolling through Facebook.
I’ve come to the decision, then, that I never want to lose my sense of innocence. I’m going to make that conscious decision to enjoy the simple things in life, and to find joy once more in the things I’ve already experienced. I’m going to keep popping in that first disc of The Fellowship of the Ring, and I’m going to sit down in the Shire, kick my feet up on a bench, and smoke a pipe with Gandalf and Bilbo.
And I’m going to enjoy it just as much as I did the first time.