The Rape of Innocence …..Felix Abrahams Obi
“…but I want you to be wise about what is good and innocent about what is evil…” (Romans 16:19)
An ace and master artist had a plain and blank canvas well fixated on a stand. He had in his hands a sketch of the masterpiece he’d worked on for months. It was going to be the best of his living works, and many of them had been collected by curators and connoisseurs from across the world. His exhibitions at museums receive visitors from the nobles and respected leaders of the society. His admirers and fans have made him become the richest among artists of his generation. The canvas was unlike any other that has been seen or ever produced. It was made of a special papyrus that had been preserved for ages to maintain its innocence. It was a special gift to the master artist and any painting on it would literally become a world heritage and cultural relic.
So he went to work…with his pencil, he began to sketch on the virgin surface of the canvas till he reproduced the replica of the sketch on his hallowed notebook. Like Leonardo Da Vinci’s notepads which Bill Gates bought for a record US$30million, there are speculations that his would rake in millions of dollars. He was as meticulous in drawing and sketching his works on the notepad, as he was in producing the live masterpiece on the canvas.
His publicist had begun a blog on his website that showed the ‘sketched masterpiece’, and it was already receiving rave reviews and critiques from experts and arts connoisseurs. Progress on the work was posted on the website each day and expectations were high, and the press and paparazzi itched for the first shot and the first words. He worked in absolute solitude, and received no visitors, and his family and friends were banished from seeing him. No one entered his studio save for his most-trusted servant and apprentice who had served him for years, and reputed as the most faithful. He it was who liaised with the publicist for the daily or weekly updates depending on the progress made. Each night, the master after the day’s work would recline on his cane chair and talk with his cherished servant. He would sip wine from his golden cup, and blow away smoke from his bronze pipe!
One night his servant had in a moment of indiscretion sipped so much wine which his master had kept beside the canvas. His head became fussy and cloggy, and he began to hear voices talk to him, and confirm him as the master artist. He thus picked his master’s brushes and began to paint recklessly. He held his master’s sketch on the other hand and worked all the more in a bid to offer a helping hand while his master lounged and slept on the cane chair to sleep. He had become so tired and weary from mental and physical exhaustion that took its toll on arch-artists. There was only one canvas…the one that the world earnestly awaited to be unveiled in a matter of weeks!
The servant’s intoxication and excitement had made him do the unimaginable….he had smeared and splashed indelible oil and contrasting colours on the canvas. He had completely deformed the masterpiece unknown to him. Only the light of the morning sun could reveal the damage and it was a double tragedy. The night flipped by and the day dawned, heralding a morning which the master artist and his servant never would forget.
The servant had lost his innocence. The canvas also lost its innocence. But far from the lost innocence, the servant had dashed the destiny and purpose of that special canvas that was preserved for ages. There was nothing that the artists didn’t do to remedy the situation….and that was the lowest point of his distinguished career. In no short time, he became depressed and retrogressed to the point of paranoia and, when the world thought he’s recovered, he took his life. Before he died, he forgave his servant whom he loved so much in spite of all the heartache he had caused. Not too long after, his cherished servant hung himself, for he couldn’t forgive himself for defiling the ‘innocent canvas’ that led to the death of his master…
In today’s world that lacks absolutes in morality and ethics, the power of innocence is being denigrated and spited. Moral laxity and uninhibited freedom has become so celebrated that those who hold on to ideals of morality and ethics that once shaped humanity now live in derision and awe. Those who stick to the right side of the divide are mocked loudly by those who have chosen to live on the left side of life. Conservative morality has become a taboo, while liberalism and utmost freedom to indulge in all that is hitherto called evil has become the prevalent culture. The hitherto discriminated ‘minority’ have become too strong for the majority. The world’s innocence has been taken away and not a few of us are confronted by the gory consequences of our lost innocence.
What do I mean by innocence? A quick look at wikipedia.org would shed more light on this: Innocence is a term that describes the lack of guilt of an individual, with respect to a crime. It may also be used to indicate a general lack of guilt, with respect to any kind of crime, sin, or wrongdoing. It can also refer to a state of unknowing, where one's experience is lesser, in either a relative view to social peers, or by an absolute comparison to a more common normative scale. In contrast to ignorance, it is generally viewed as a positive term, connoting a blissfully positive view of the world, in particular one where the lack of knowledge stems from a lack of wrongdoing, whereas greater knowledge comes from doing wrong. This connotation may be connected with a popular false etymology explaining "innocent" as meaning "not knowing" (Latin noscere).
Preserving that innocence we inherited from childhood is now a Herculean task and not too many of us have succeeded. Even when we try, some external forces more powerful and vicious that any we can muster often fight and subdue us. We lose our innocence both by our free choice, or by force. But the consequences are one and the same. The loss of innocence makes us vulnerable and leaves a gapping hole in our heart of hearts. Who doesn’t remember the ‘very first time’ he/she did what hitherto was thought as abhor able? Who would forget the first day he/she stepped beyond the fringes of morality and enjoyed some moments of ‘madness’? But far from the thrill of the encounter, we experienced a benumbing feeling that rises up to our consciousness when we are all alone. We live with memories and entrenched experiences that poke at us for life. We often have physical and emotional scars that constantly remind us about the past we never would like to remember. Too many walk like ghosts being stalked by a past they overtly lived out, or was by some means thrust on them.
How about a young lad who became precociously exposed to sex because a doting auntie gave him the unusual ‘privilege’ of watching her undress, with the added advantage of fondling her now and then. He experienced what was too much for his age to handle, and it stirred up unholy passion in him that his teenage and adult life had been marked by orgies and promiscuity. Think about 11years old Donnie McCurkin (renowned gospel singer) whose uncle and cousin had raped simultaneously, thus stealing his innocence. He experienced a depth of emotion that contrasted with his being, and he lost his maleness and sexuality, having to battle with homosexual tendencies for decades. Same uncle (the assailant) also raped Donnie’s older sister at a very young age, and her life became a mess, as she battled with drugs, violence, promiscuity and much more. Their lives changed at the moment they lost their innocence!
Far from the tale of the master artist and his servant, many struggle in life as a result of their ‘lost innocence’. Many wish their past can be wiped off for them to start a new life. So many people battle with memories of a past they are too ashamed of, wishing they could turn back the hand of the clock.The thief who burgles into a neighbour’s apartment to rob, may enjoy the thrill of making quick cash, but he might battle with his conscience for a while. The one who lies against his colleague to earn a favour from his boss may be promoted and favoured.But meeting, working with and seeing the cheated colleague day after day would remind him of his lost innocence for as long as possible. The well behaved and home-trained teenager who goes off course to indulge in the vagaries and enticing thrills of youthful-life may feel pleasure at its peak, but when he descends down the plateau, he may likely have battles to fight with his conscience and memory.
Our hearts go out to victims whose innocence have been raped, or stolen in one way or the other because once stolen, innocence can never be returned intact. Cardinal Roger Mahony of Los Angeles, leader of the America's largest Roman Catholic archdiocese, apologized recently to the hundreds of people who will get a share of a $660 million settlement over allegations of clergy sex abuse by priests. In his words, "There really is no way to go back and give them that innocence that was taken from them. ... The one thing I wish I could give the victims, I cannot. Once again, I apologize to anyone who has been offended, who has been abused. ... It should not have happened and should not ever happen again”
According to Ben Okafor (www.benokafor.com/cob/htm) ,a former Biafran child soldier ,there are over 400,000 child soldiers who fought or still fight along with adults in combat situations across Africa, and other places of the world. They have long lost the innocence of childhood having lived out the realities and madness associated with warfare. They rape and maim, kill and amputate war victims under the command and watchful eyes of adult soldiers. When the war is over, and while adults settle into their normal life, ex-child soldiers hardly get rehabilitated into society. Having lost their innocence and childhood, they usually face the difficulty of living a normal life since they have experienced the intoxicating influence of brute power and violence. With a gun and baronet they can make an adult obey under duress, they would find it hard living under the civility of democratic life. They might see it as absurd sitting under the instruction and tutelage of a ‘bloody civilian’ teacher who could help groom and heal their warped minds.
A little girl who gets abused or molested either by relatives or significant others may face a turbulent teenage life, and hardly would trust men easily however pure their intentions might be. She might likely live in shame, and battle deep-seated feelings of guilt even though she’s the victim, whereas the assailant moves on in life without a care, that is. She battles with nightmares and wonders how unfair life is, wondering if there’s justice in the world. She might question the veracity of the claim that God is the avenger of the oppressed who rewards all men according to their deeds.
Since we don’t have the jurisdiction to summon God to a human court to answer to charges of neglect of atrocities committed against humanity by fellow humans, what should an individual who has lost his/her innocence do to live right again? Since innocence cannot be recovered back in literal terms, shall we leave the victims helpless and not help sort out their lives? Good news is, there are people whose innocence still shines forth as beacons of hope to us. A classic example is Jesus Christ; a true historical figure that lived two thousands of years ago has a history of not losing his innocence. He was reputed as living in a sinful world, yet without any record of sin. His integrity and compassion made him irresistible and no one could ever claim he stole their innocence. Rather, for those whose innocence were stolen either by their own choice of freewill, or by the sheer violation of their human right to freedom, he showed compassion and understanding. He showed empathy that many couldn’t show the victims of lost innocence; i.e. the victim and the villain alike!
To prostitutes and mistresses whose sexuality had become warped, he offered hope. Though rejected as whore-mongers by the hypocritical mass of men, he accepted them unconditionally. He invoked the power of innocence to protect them from the malicious accusations from the same men that had violated and defiled their innocence. He would challenge those who are without sin to cast the first stone, but no one did or could because at one time or the other, they had stolen another’s innocence. Without a doubt, he offered them hope and a new life of inherited innocence.
The endless list continues; fraudsters, conmen, drunkards, murderers, haters, revelers, hypocrites, selfish rulers…! To all he offered and still offers hope of a new beginning. Unlike the defiled canvas that the master artist couldn’t redeem, many whose lives had been socially and emotionally scared as a consequence of their lost innocence have been able to enjoy a quality life all over again. This is a consistent phenomenon of human history. And this is only possible because anyone could tap into that power of innocence that Jesus Christ exuded which can heal the memories of a gory and shameful past!
Note: The author, Felix Obi is a Physiotherapist and freelance writer based in Abuja Nigeria and can be reached via; firstname.lastname@example.org