Sunday, September 11, 2011

Loss of innocence

“For in much wisdom is much grief, and he who increases knowledge increases sorrow.”
Ecclesiastes 1:18

I really am not fond of that passage from Ecclesiastes. It’s enough to make a person eschew knowledge. (Does it seem like I just got an assignment to use the word eschew in a sentence? I could have said avoid but I’m feeling rather pretentious in a wordy way and I’ve chosen to use the word eschew. That’s the problem with having a blog of my own—there’s no one to stop me. Tis more the pity.)

So I read that passage from Ecclesiastes about knowledge increasing sorrow and I kept thinking of Robert Preston in The Music Man, singing about the sadder-but-wiser girl:

I snarl, I hiss: How can ignorance be compared to bliss?
I spark, I fizz for the lady who knows what time it is.
I cheer, I rave for the virtue I'm too late to save
The sadder-but-wiser girl for me.
Is ignorance bliss? What happens when we realize that life will never be what we expected it to be? Does it harden us when we truly understand the fallible nature of humankind?  Does it diminish our own spirits when we learn that we can’t trust our fellow human beings?

Ten years ago today, on the morning of September 11, 2001, I was at work at my office outside of Washington, DC. The airplanes crashed into the Twin Towers in New York. A plane flew into the Pentagon and another into a field in Pennsylvania. We heard a rumor that a bomb had exploded near the White House. And my first thought was, is John okay? I prayed, please, Lord, let him be okay. John was my ex-husband and he worked near the White House. We had an ugly divorce, yet from my heart, my first concern was about him. Fast forward. . . . he was unhurt on September 11, 2001, but died three years later from brain cancer.

I know this sounds like I need serious medication—I’m mixing Ecclesiastes, Robert Preston, 9-11, and my former husband. But it makes sense to me in that swampy mess inside my head. It’s about a loss of innocence. Scripture tells us that with knowledge comes sorrow. This sadder-but-wiser girl wanted to believe that the world was a safe place, that no terrorist plot could ever reach American soil. This sadder-but-wiser girl wanted to believe that guy met girl, they fell in love, they married, had a happy family, and did not part ‘til death. This sadder-but-wiser girl didn’t want to lose her innocence. This sadder-but-wiser girl didn't want to know that there is grief in wisdom.

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