Naivety vs. Innocence

Anand Swamy
8 min readNov 21, 2017

Last week I spent time with my cousin and her family in Santa Barbara, CA.

I’d head down the Bluffs, a hiking region on the coast-side every morning at about 5:15am.

I was up before the sun. The cold air, dark morning sky and dying trees that surrounded the area was reminiscent of the Blair Witch Project — a low budget scary movie produced in the 90’s that gave me nightmares but makes me laugh now. As I got deeper into the Bluffs the street lights on Hollister avenue disappeared.

Soon I was deep into the hike with only a blemish from the moon lighting my path. I left my phone at my cousins. The more I’m without my phone the less of a prisoner I feel to it.

Every so often I heard rattles in the nearby bushes. The sudden noise of a bird before it took flight startled me momentarily and the occasional woodpecker jerking its beak was oddly pleasing.

After about 15–20 minutes of blindly walking through unfamiliar grounds, I saw a path to the ocean. With the trees behind me, I walked towards the Pacific. Her morning roar was loud and the view….limitless.

The morning sun was beginning to stretch and not a cloud in the sky. The beach was below. I wasn’t ready to go down there just yet. Instead, I sat down on the edge of a nearby cliff. I was reminded by what Andy said to Red the day before he broke out of jail in the Shawshank Redemption.

“Do you know what the Mexicans say about the Pacific? They say it has no memory.”

Moments in nature usher me into her vortex thus eradicating the need to think about anything. After a few minutes I lost myself. No mind, no body — just the breath. It was a stark reminder that I’m part of something greater.

Nature has an uncanny ability to take me in as her own. She doesn’t care about my past, my mistakes, wrongdoings and misfortunes. She looks at me with the admiration that you would if you saw a close friend after many years.

As I proceeded to the beach I saw my first human for the day. She had to be in her late 30’s, blonde, porcelain skin jaded with a temporary pinkish hue due the morning breeze and a body that makes me think there might be a god. She had a black labrador. The three of us smiled at each other in unison and didn’t share a word. We somehow knew the fortunate circumstances we shared — that a morning walk amongst the birds, grass, trees, ocean and sand could make one truly happy.

Through a series of thoughtfully carved pathways, I made my way to the ocean. Littered with seaweed, shells and an array of rocks, I took my shoes off to let the sand sift between my toes.

When my feet graced the Pacific I noticed her touch being warmer than in San Francisco. Young birds to my left were being guided by their mother in search of food but quickly became distracted by a game of tag that the ocean played. As each wave hit the shore, the flock of birds would run away only to return until the next wave. It’s a game many children and adults play without knowing.

I eventually went back to my cousins and was greeted by my niece and nephew. It was still early so their rambunctiousness was temporarily dismantled by bagels, cream cheese and morning kid shows.

In a nutshell my week with them was special because it taught me an important lesson that if you take to heart like medicine — will leave you better than before.

The Lesson

My nephew is in the second grade, the niece in kindergarten.

I observed how they interacted at home, with other children at school and with me.

The best lessons in presence are those by experience and my kin taught me without words.

My week was spent in play. Whether it was playing football and soccer with my nephew, building a dollhouse for my niece, giving her a horsy ride on my shoulders, showing them magic card tricks, playing video games, playing tag or hide and seek — I became a child again.

It’s something I missed dearly.

They see the world with hope, they live moment to moment, they cry and pout when upset, but not for long. They forgive easily and love unconditionally.

I have many fond memories during my week in Santa Barbara. One in particular was when I dropped my nephew to school and before class he ran to me, gave me a hug, kissed my cheek and whispered, I love you. I wasn’t cutting onions but feeling the effects big time. I don’t have kids of my own, but I’m beginning to see that sons are as fragile and full of emotions as daughters.

Even though my time with these two was like natural contraception, a part of me feels a desire to be a father — but not yet.

I learned something important from these youngsters.

In an interview with Maya Angelou, Oprah asked her what is the best piece of advice you’ve given and received, and she said:

“There is a place in each of us that we must keep clean and pristine so nobody has the right to treat you badly — no matter your mother, father, wife, husband, etc.., because that might be the place that you go to when you meet god”

Maya Angelou was referring to innocence.

As we grow older our minds become tarnished. We stop having hope. We tend to agonize over problems that we should take responsibility for. We stop dreaming, telling stories, playing, learning, laughing, etc.

I was robbed of my innocence at a very young age. Growing up in a house-hold where domestic violence was normal will force you to grow up quickly. This is not my families fault. They didn’t know any better but it made me lose hope.

I’m happy to say that I’ve found it recently.

Better now than never, right?

I now look at the world as new. I see possibility. I started to re-kindle the fire that was ignited at our birth. It’s our duty to keep the fire burning if we are to live life to its fullest.

Wisdom doesn’t always follow Age

If we are bold, the beauty of growing older is how we can clearly differentiate between naivety and innocence.

As children we learn the joys of discovery and the pitfalls of pain. It helps us understand the dualistic nature of the world — and while understanding our environment is important, many hold onto the pitfalls of pain.

With time this pain digs a trench deep in our psyche. Unable to get out, we tend to forget the world is a miracle. We start to live in the past and look forward to the future and forget that right now is all we have.

Our innocence is being robbed of us daily.

This is a legitimate fear of mine for the children of our generation. They get bombarded with so much information that they lose the need to empathize with people. The lifespan of innocence will become shorter and shorter.

I hope this will not be the case.

A Friendly Reminder to get back to Innocence

We should remind ourselves that we are a speck of dust in the cosmos.

We should remind ourselves that we don’t know why we are here, where we’ll go and what will happen when life is over.

We should contemplate death and live life with urgency.

We should remember that everything is temporary and that the seasons of life will repeat themselves and it’s ok to cry but crying for too long will make us miss the splendor of spring and summer.

We get bogged down with what people think about us, accumulate material bullshit and find ourselves in a wreck if we are not living up to societies standards.

We aren’t naive anymore which is good, but we are also losing the grip on innocence.

Naivety vs. Innocence

  • I’m optimistically pessimistic.
  • Our world is beautifully fucked.
  • Love is the best and most cruel emotion ever to be created.
  • Most of the shit we do doesn’t matter but we gotta do them anyway.

My life has become a paradox and it’s okay.

The beauty of getting older is that we are not naive to the world.

We know that unkind people roam the planet.

We know that the power dynamics of politics makes it seem like a civilized orgy for misfits.

We know things like greed, jealousy, wars, cancer, hunger, famine, rape, pedophilia and a whole host of other bad shit exists.

We should always be aware of these things and it’s our duty as citizens of this planet to put wrong in its place — but it’s also important to not lose our innocence.

Re-Kindle Innocence

It’s important to:

  • Not stop dreaming
  • To know that beautiful people exist
  • To know that people are generally happy to see you happy
  • To know that more people help than harm
  • To know that a beautiful hike in the woods with a friend and a simple meal are beautiful things
  • To know that a day without wine is like a day without sunshine
  • To know that we are all struggling through life and if we can hear each other out we can make another’s journey brighter thus lighting our path as well
  • To never forget that we will die so living with a bit or urgency isn’t the worst thing
  • To not get to down on yourself for mistakes, because everything ever created since the history before forever was a mistake
  • To know that every moment is one where we can improve
  • To know that books are written with love. To know that authors have direct connection with a divine unknown source that they can’t see, feel or justify but at the same time has the power to envelope them in love.
  • To understand that jealousy is a symptom of scarcity. That to remove jealousy all one needs is gratitude. If you can walk then you are fucking lucky!
  • To know that all relationships in life are temporary. Enjoy them while you can, reminisce about them when life sucks and love that you had them while you did.
  • Be a child again. Rumi once said, “sell your cleverness and purchase bewilderment.” Look at life with awe because the whole concept behind it is miraculous.

Reclaim your innocence today. Wake up everyday and know that yesterdays garbage doesn’t exist. Know that each living moment is a chance to make yourself and others better.

“Only when the mind is completely free from yesterday, and is therefore not using the present as a means to the future, is it capable of receiving the eternal….” — -J.Krishnamurti.

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Anand Swamy

I write about personal development and self awareness.