Guilt, Innocence and Adaptation
Even in the context of disarray there is a certain degree of order. The papers scattered about the desk, the unwashed dishes in the sink and the pile of laundry that is growing in the chair are constant reminders of the departure from an organized and ordered life. It is not a perfect world and somehow it is seems necessary to allow a modicum of disorder into our lives.
It has been said that we cannot truly comprehend the sensation of being cold unless we have sweltered in the humid heat of a summer day. Or how could we know the softness of a baby’s cheek unless we had also touched the callous, dry skin of sundried feet. One is not possible without the other. For to know one, is to know the other.
And so it is true with the journey through this life. Our lives begin with the bliss of innocence, far removed from the age of accountability and only through our experiences on the path toward finality can we understand the antithesis of innocence; that being, guilt. We cannot know one without the other.
The blamelessness of infancy is orderly. We awake, we suckle and all of our needs are met. It is a structured existence. Time becomes the great game changer. With each passing moment we begin to move toward disorder. We experience ailments, maladies and sickness. It is not a perfect world. All of the ills that have plagued mankind since the beginning come to visit our doorsteps. Hunger, fear, anxiety, remorse, failure, hate and even love all play their parts as we move from innocence toward guilt.
Guilt is a necessary, yeah, even an essential emotion to have. For without guilt how could we realize the other passions afforded us along the way? The innocence of order is taught to us throughout life. It can be likened to a simple mathematical equation: 1+1=2; cause and effect if you will. Do this and this will happen. Whether it is something positive or something negative, there will be an outcome. That minimalism yields order and gives us an attachment to the innocence of our beginnings. It is the perfect world in which we desire to exist. It is sterile and detached from the necessity of disorder.
Guilt is an unconscious emotion that moves us to a conscious state. It awakens us from innocence. It breaks the order of blamelessness into fragments of disorder. When we place those shards of guilt into the pan, opposite the pan filled with innocence, the balance beam on the scales of life then becomes, or moves toward becoming, level. Allowing this process to occur is adaptation; disorder and order can then coexist in a symbiotic relationship.
Have you ever prepared someone’s favorite meal for them? You took the time to plan the menu; you carefully selected the items and prepared them with diligent care and skill; you arranged the foods in a pleasing presentation and seated your guest. It was an orderly process. At the end of the meal you asked was it to their liking. Even before your guest responds verbally, a huge smile on their face signals that they did enjoy the meal. It is the universal sign of approval. For a moment you are transported back to the innocence of infancy; unconsciously aware of the smile on your mother’s face as she held you closely to her breast. You are filled with joy.
In a state of bliss and satiation you choose to take a walk at a nearby public park. Upon entering the park you notice a thin, frail man sleeping on one of the benches. The orderliness of your day begins to become broken into pieces of disorder. The unconsciousness of innocence awakens to the consciousness of guilt. Not that it is your fault that the man maybe homeless and hungry, but only because you reveling in your delight of innocence and that you have a full stomach and a home.
It is necessary to experience such an emotion. You must know one, to know the other; to fully understand both emotions. The adaptation comes when we choose where to place those fragments of guilt. If we walk on by and displace the feeling of guilt, nothing is gained. The fragments are not weighed in the balance scales of life; the balance beam tilts toward order. Our tendency is to cling to our innocence and shun the disorder of guilt. Simply put, we are seeking the path that offers the least resistance. Although we may temporarily suppress the guilt, it still remains subtly present in our thoughts. The innocence of order does yield joy, but it is fleeting, because that momentary disruption of order produces disorder. The disorder is necessary for us to have the opportunity to balance the scales of life; equilibrium being an essential attribute in maintaining stability as we experience all of the emotions of this life.
The process of accepting the disorder, and subsequently musing upon it, brings about a change to fit the ever fluctuating conditions of daily living; hence, we adapt. In the foregoing scenario, had we stopped and asked the man on the bench if he was hungry, we would have initiated the process of adaptation. Next, offering to bring him a meal continues the progression of adapting to the disruption of our orderly realm. Returning to the park with food and giving to the man moves our fragments of disorder into the pan opposite of the one containing order and the scales of life balance; hence, adaptation strikes equilibrium between the order of innocence and the disorder or guilt.
You might ask, “How is it that we are awakened from our slumber in innocence and order, to an awareness of disorder and the guilt it brings?” The answer lies in the Words of God. “…I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts…” Therefore, we all know the difference between right and wrong, even from the beginning of our lives. It is a matter free will; a choice as to whether we acknowledge and adapt to the disruptions that move us from innocence to guilt.