Click link to watch clip: the russia house
we tend to speak of innocence as something that we either have lost or gained or can quite possibly re-gain. in the movie ‘the russia house’ there is a moment where michelle pfiefer’s character begins a conversation with ‘do you remember 1968?’ – right in this moment, the movie begins a jilted sequence of flash-backs with her narrating what to her might have been a time of innocence.
to her, innocence is an idea trapped by/in time. and it cannot be gained again. only in memory or repetition can innocence be regained. for memory itself is form of repressed repetition. we repeat the sequence of events, and in that moment we re-experience the feelings, be they good or bad, we might even remember the tastes, smells and words that were said as if we were there all over again.
let’s think of memory as an absence of the present. for memories tend to refer to some sort of past event. nostalgia fits in this category. when we sit and remember our first kiss, or when we remember our first bicycle, or our first broken heart – its as if we live that exact moment over and over again. we desire nothing more to attempt to perfect moments, and crystallize them into a form of encased reality, but the tragedy of those moments is that we will never get them back. for the most part rememberance is a form of mourning. either through wishing that the moment would re-appear or either through the catharsis of letting it all go.
the truth is innocence in its traditional context does not exist. no one is innocent in that sense. let me explain. we sometimes equate innocence to naivete (some sort of lack of knowledge of either evil or something not beneficial to a person’s development), the reality is, once someone enters the world a knowing of some sort occurs, either through the eyes, ears or nose. this kind of innocence is born out of something that does not exist. which in short, is a delusion.
this also begs the question of ethical secret-keeping. is there such a thing?
do we not tell someone something because it might preserve their ‘innocence’? (much like in the movie ‘the truman show’ where everyone but jim carrey’s character is aware that reality as he knows it is simulated. but isnt that a perverse sense of pseudo-innocence when we preserve naivete? this isn’t to say that we should expose children to obscene pictures of the holocaust, of course, discretion must be employed, but at what or who’s cost must it be employed? the longer we preserve this kind of ‘disneyland innocence’ (meaning that happiness can be obtained through consumerism (i.e., you are buying a ticket to ‘the happiest place on earth’) when in reality happiness is an attitude not a narcotic.
memories of the innocence type play on an absence in that the event that has past is no longer present. it relies on the memory to partake in the illusion of presence when in reality the memory itself is absent. and if innocence is a memory then it can be nothing more than an illusion we repeat.
our culture preserves itself through nostalgia. if you turn on your television and notice the majority of commercials center around age and the prevention of getting old. we want to preserve that which is impossible -immortality. we seek after the fountain of youth all the while knowing this object does not exist. but we need the object to exist to give our life meaning. we need innocence so we can forget how perverse the world has become. but, in reality, the best way to preserve innocence is to work together to remove those objects, systems, beliefs and so on in place that keep us from who we once were. this is not some naive communist notion of altruistic perfect community, but more akin to the jewish tikkun olam where we work together to repair the world of the divine that already inhabits it.