Innoncence v. Ignorance v. Cynicism

“Ignorance is not knowing anything and being attracted to the good. Innocence is knowing everything, and still being attracted to the good.” Clarissa Pinkola-Estes

We tend to think that ‘ignorance is bliss’, because increased knowledge inevitably brings with it increased sorrow, pain, and despondency; and that innocence, while beautiful perhaps, is essentially a state of profound vulnerability and powerlessness. We must protect the innocent who are incapable of protecting themselves, and who, in their naivete, will be abused, misused, and desecrated by the realities of life. We ourselves masochistically seek knowledge, while at once envying and despising the ignorant who exist freely without the burdens and weight that are amassed with every new bit of knowledge.

I mean this is the general interpretation of Genesis right?: So long as we were innocent, we existed blissfully in the Garden of Eden. Then came the malevolent and cunning serpent who succeeded in tempting us – or okay, just the Woman – in eating from the tree of knowledge. And: ousted. Immediately. Expelled from Paradise, doomed forever to roam in the anti-paradisal reality that is the result of knowing. Yikes – not only is ignorance truly bliss, but it is also, in this narrative, a virtue. (Our sin was wanting to know, and our punishment: knowing.)

Horrible mixed message we end up sending here to our children, each other, and ourselves: Ignorance is despicable and wrong; but it is also the blessed state we lived in (and hope to return to) with God in Paradise. Knowledge is virtue and power; but our desire for it is also our greatest sin, and your heart will break a little more with every each and every new truth you learn about reality. Enjoy!

Amen (‘-and,’ as she says, ‘a little woman’) for Dr. Pinkola-Estes who, in characteristic fashion, sheds light onto the dark: ‘Ignorance is not knowing anything and being attracted to the good. Innocence is knowing everything, and still being attracted to the good.’ These statements express the completeness of this circle:

Innocence is not about being hopelessly naive, and knowledge, not something that leaves us hopelessly jaded. Not necessarily anyway. Not if we keep going. Not if we move past knowledge, to profound understanding and wisdom, which is always compassionate (and not, despairing). If we continue the journey past mere knowledge we end beyond naivete, and beyond blind trust and faith, (which can and do often come at the expense of our physical well-being). If we complete the circle, we end not in despair, but at fully conscious faith and trust. We come to empowered innocence: innocence that knows everything – and is still attracted to the good. (Note: It’s a circle because it is a representation of the evolving mind. Ever evolving, ever transforming (new areas of) ignorance into knowledge, wisdom and enlightenment.)

Knowledge is, or can be painful, yes. But it is also empowering: now we can choose the good, whereas before we were simply acting out, unaware. It can feel disempowering, because we get stuck looking the unwanted reality in the face. Because the more we know, the more we know what is lacking, what is bad, what there is to be done, how hard it will be, and how small we really are. All this we learn and more. The question is: do we have it in us to know all we know, and even to learn more, and still move towards the good? It is the ever faithful – and, I should add, courageous – child in us that says, ‘Yes.’


She’s not wearing the frog on her head because she’s silly or foolish. She’s wearing him because she knows she’ll need him where she is going. She knows full well where she’s going. – And she’s going anyway. Can we do the same?