In Reply to: 'We may mock the pretension... posted by Steve on January 21, 2010 at 19:00:
: I came across this at my mother's house. She had it written down on a piece of paper and she said she got it out of a paper about 20 years ago. It said 'We may mock the pretension and hypocrisy, yet we yearn for the purity and innocence of an idealised childhood'. Can anybody explain what this means? Thank You.
I'll take a shot at it, and you can laugh later.
We (who are now sophisticated and slightly cynical adults) recognize that many of the things that we remember, and most of the things that we say, about childhood are an airbrushed (with pretense and hypocrisy) version of how it actually was. But even though we sneer at the idea of childhood being so innocent and pure, we still long for that picture to be true, and we still look for innocence and purity in childhood.
I'm not sure I get it, either. Children learn early on to be cunning and skeptical, to a degree, although not to the same degree (I imagine) as the adults running the show. Children are often into misbehavior that in adults is called crime. Their sexual curiosity is a junior version of the prurience and concupiscence of adults. Their actual behavior is usually not actionable, but their exhibitionism can at times approach that of adolescents on spring break. Violence and bullying are not unknown among children, nor are envy and self-pity.
I don't know if my actual views agree with those of the writer of that sentence, but I am armed with plenty of cynicism and skepticism. Yet I view this time of life, even with all of its mischievous tendencies, all its suffusion with self-pity and self-involvement, all its demonstrations of mob instinct among agressive boys, all of its examples of casual cruelty to other children and especially to animals, as somehow more innocent that the same tendencies among adults. We tend to regard children as corrigible, often acting out the tendencies that contaminate adult life but waiting to be informed by maturation and education, and by the model of well-behaved adults.
We are right, I believe, in idealizing the life of children, for by treating them as innocent we avoid the trap of creating evil by prophesying it. And there's also the reality that we are strongly motivated by our naturally inherited characteristics to treat children with kindness and forgiveness--or so I believe at this point.
Does that sound like a load of muck?