Whoever said that everything you need to know in life can be learned in high school English class was onto something.
With a light green pen, age 17, I copied the following information into my class notebook.
innocence: the state of the soul which is represented by the naïve outlook of the child who believes what he is told by his elders, and takes appearance for reality, and the best aspect of things for the whole truth
experience: the state of the soul which is represented by a changed outlook of someone who has undergone some corrupting influence which has influenced the perspective toward negativity. The world is materialistic, poverty-stricken, oppressed, diseased, full of war, and is epitomized by the bad things of modern life
organized innocence: a state of the soul which began in innocence, passes through and assimilates the opposing state of experience, and moves on, by an act of imagination, to a third state where the person has risen above the corruption. He or she is changed but not destroyed and comes to a new understanding or appreciation of the world
These were the ideas of William Blake, Romantic poet, painter, and thinker. The three states of soul described here left an impression on me, enough to revisit them now, ten years later, and many times in between.
At 17, I believed I would be a person who would pass through innocence and experience to arrive triumphantly at organized innocence. I was right! I would, and I did. Better put, I am constantly arriving.
Innocence ended for me around age 10 or 11. Experience picked up and accelerated in high school, steamed ahead during the university years, and seemed to top out at age 24 — a time period wherein I maxed out my own agonies.
A sense of organized innocence began in the spring of 2015, around the time I returned home from a long stay in Europe, joined and completed a three-month intensive yoga training course, renewed my commitment to physical and mental health, and felt, over all, liberated to embark on an independent, inspired, self-directed future.
Since that spring, my sense of self—and self-assuredness—has continued to integrate and strengthen. What’s more, I am past the point of no return. That is to say, I cannot regress. I know too much now.
This is not to say I have nothing left to “experience” or learn. It’s not to say that I don’t have really bad days or awkward, painful chapters now and then. It’s not to say that I am perfect, bullet proof, or have everything figured out.
It’s to say that I have made leaps and bounds toward a higher, clearer, more optimistic, and more organized view of the world and my life among it. Which is, above all, relieving as hell. The tortured life is not for the faint of heart, and I am a delicate flower.
A lot more is on the way. I am just so much better equipped than previously.
Surprisingly little can be found online about Blake’s terms: innocence, experience, and organized innocence. And I cannot cite a source for the descriptions listed above, because I never listed one in my notebook.
All the more intriguing.
The featured image for this post is Blake’s painting, Flames of Furious Desires.
I think it’s pretty rad.