Experience + Innocence

Wednesday night my wife and I took 4 of our children to Tulsa to see the opening night of U2’s North American leg of the Experience + Innocence Tour. The show was exceptional, they always are. Experiencing it with my kids was special. I’ve been to see U2 many times, but this was the first time for the kids.

If you know anything about U2, you know they are champions for elevating the poor, the unseen, and the passed over. They fight for workers, women, people with AIDS and, most importantly for me, unity. They are outspoken and sometimes upset those who are comfortable in the present system, but unless you simply ignore them they make you think.

Two studio albums, Songs of Innocence and Songs of Experience, comprise their latest project.  The title for the project came from a book of poems by William Blake published in 1789 called Songs of Innocence and Experience. “Innocence” and “Experience” are definitions of consciousness that rethink Milton’s existential-mythic states of “Paradise” and “Fall”. Childhood is a state of protected innocence, but not immune to the fallen world and its institutions. This world sometimes impinges on childhood itself, and in any event becomes known through “experience”, a state of being marked by the loss of childhood vitality, by fear and inhibition, by social and political corruption, and by the manifold oppression the ruling classes.

Sorry, that got a little heavy, but it’s important. During the concert these words were put up on the giant video screens:

“Wisdom is the recovery of innocence at the end of experience”

That got me thinking. We were not created for the world we live in. We were created for one that is much better. We should be childlike, but we were not content to live without knowledge that was too great for us to carry. Taking that knowledge corrupted the world and led to what we now experience. But the story doesn’t end there.

Jesus said, “let the kids come to me, because my kingdom is populated by people who perceive the way a child does.” (that is a paraphrase….) A child has innocence. They have not yet been deceived by knowledge into thinking they know. They don’t know, and they are fine with that.

I spent much of my life certain that I knew. Certain that I was in control. Certain that I was right. Arrogance is the best friend of selfishness and together they give birth to indifference. Eventually the things I experienced, unmanageability, pain, and loss, brought me to a place where I regained some of my innocence. I became capable of living in the state of not knowing, but more importantly, not being enslaved by my knowledge. In recovery I regained some of my innocence.

The world, and the lure of knowledge and power, trick us into exchanging our innocence for a lie. We become marred by fear and corruption and we lose our childlike vitality, our zest for real life. What we experience in that life can either ultimately kill us, or it can cause us to return to our childlike state of faith and innocence. It is in that innocence that we find the ability to live without fear, to love without expectation and to trust in each other. We can regain “Paradise.”

Things won’t ever be perfect here on earth, but they can be better. I am thankful that Kimray is one of the places where things are better, and we are using our resources to make them better in other places. Making that difference is the Kimray Way.