I am filled with a joy and calm as I sing the words to “Shout to the Lord” during our weekly chapel service. In my ten-year-old mind, there is nothing more soothing than singing songs of worship with all my friends and classmates. Ever since preschool, I have been enrolled at Gardena Valley Christian School. Christianity is my religion, and although I don’t really understand it, I don’t question it because I am surrounded by others who have the same faith. In my innocence, I do not need to understand everything about God and Christianity; I simply need to be told what to believe and what to do. However, this state of innocence is one that cannot be held onto forever. After fifth grade, I leave GVCS to attend a public middle school. There, things are not centered on God. I experience new things and I begin to question my faith and wonder how I was able to follow so blindly. At GVCS, we were sheltered from many of the things that other children the same age have to see. We were secluded in a world of God and tolerance, but here in this public school, I see a whole different side of the world and I begin to wonder how I could have been so blind to it.
The first part of my childhood was a world of innocence where things were simple and straightforward. I didn’t have to worry about anything because I was content with my view of the world. The second part was in a world where things are not always as they seem. I questioned the faith I had once followed blindly and began to wonder how these two worlds can coexist. In the way that I questioned this, William Blake does the same in Songs of Innocence and Songs of Experience. Blake’s poems “The Lamb” and “The Tyger” together is a great example of how Blake sees two completely different worlds – one of innocence and one that has been opened up to reality by experience. He questions how God can create something as sweet and innocent as the lamb in one world and then turn around and create something as fearful as the tiger in the other. The way that Blake asks, “Did He who made the lamb make thee?” is just the way I questioned the two worlds that that I found to be so contrary to one another. It is a question asked, not with wonder and awe, but with confusion and incredulousness. The experiences are so different from each other that it is hard to believe that they could have come from the same place.
Experience is something so powerful that it is able to transform a world into something completely different. “Infant Joy” from Songs of Innocence portrays the world that I lived in during my time at GVCS – worry free and filled with joy. The infant says, “‘I happy am, / Joy is my name.'” It has not yet experienced the hardships of life and does not know about the sorrow and suffering that is yet to come. “Infant Sorrow,” on the other hand, shows a newborn that is born with the understanding of how hard it is to live in the world. The infant is born into a “dangerous world,” “helpless,” “struggling,” and “bound and weary.” It is the complete opposite of the other infant in that it is born with experience instead of innocence. In my mind, the pictures of the two infants are representations of me in the two different stages of my own childhood: innocence and experience.
William Blake’s views on the subject of innocence and experience match the views that I hold. Experience defeats innocence and the simple joys and happiness that come with innocence. With experience comes reality and the realization that things can never go back to how they were before experience was gained. This is the reason that Blake’s Songs of Experience have a more somber and sad tone than his Songs of Innocence and also the reason that moving from the innocent world of GVCS to the world of public school was so hard for me.