This week is the vernal equinox, and as I listen to the glorious new Chris Ayer album and pore over Didion’s Slouching Towards Bethlehem, my mind drifts and my eyes wander to the whirlwind of snow flurries outside my fourth story window. Such wintery chaos assaulting us, on the brink of spring. In the glare of my desk lamp on the window, I can see my reflection, swaddled in a creamy Vellux blanket. My round, child-like face appears rounder and more child-like than ever, and tonight, I feel child-like.
Child-like; that is, not childish. Innocent, rather than immature. I know that I have not the innocence of a child, yet at this moment, I feel like this winter has fostered in me the strange, specific kind of innocence that accompanies denial. A friend recently spoke to me of “the serenity of innocence,” and though he was using the word “innocence” in a completely different context with a totally different meaning, the phrase gently clings to my consciousness.
Some people, I think, can pinpoint the moment they outgrew their innocence. I can’t. I think I lost mine when I finally accepted that, as Robert Mapplethorpe told Patti Smith, “Patti, nobody sees as we do,” and, I realized, it is my responsibility to learn to live with that. Everyone has that burden to carry, that blessing to hold, and in fear, I think some people choose to abandon the responsibility of seeing for themselves. For my part, sometimes I find it alienating; at other times, liberating; but mostly I accept it as a challenge.
It isn’t necessarily an easy thing, I think, to embrace the singularity of your own vision, and I think it’s even more difficult to attempt to share your perception of the world everyone shares. How do you convey what is universal about your personal experience, and consequently your personal view of a universal experience, without falling into the pits of banality? And, for that matter, what’s the point?
The point is, what else could possibly be the point? What is there, outside of sharing your vision and experiencing others’? From where I stand, there is only despair. To live forever in a cloud of innocence, without ever transitioning to the stage of life in which you choose the honesty of self-awareness, the sincerity of connecting with others through that awareness — perhaps there is serenity in such a cloud, but how could you ever know? It is a person’s responsibility, I think, to deconstruct his cloud of innocence and rebuild his world through his individual actions and reactions as he lives them in the context of others’ experiences, past and present.
I find that it’s easy to grow disillusioned with the process of reconstruction, and easier still to fear it. As this “killing winter” comes to a close, I am trying to find the courage I need to rise to the occasion and push myself to create something honest and true, both within myself and without. With the spring comes the promise of new life, and what better time than now is there to break down winter’s languid cloud of innocence and start something fresh? Still, as I look beyond my reflection at the relentless, dreary snow that might yet blanket the ground on March 20th, I can’t suppress the gnawing apprehension that forebodes despair. “And should I then presume? And how should I begin?”