#10 — “The End of the Innocence” & #Catsof TikTok

I have a confession, but before I share it, I first need to go back in time a bit.

For nearly ten years, I used Facebook regularly. I amassed a large number of friends, family, and colleagues, and found the social media site rather beneficial. I was able to, like many others, stay up to date with people via their pictures, daily happenings, etc. Particularly, when I began moving away from home, further and further with each move, it kept me connected to those I saw less and less.

And then, 2016 happened. Politics happened. The presidential election cycle. I saw people I had known most, if not all, my life turn hateful, visceral, divisive, and just, for lack of a better way to put it, mean. Here I was, day in and day out, teaching students the art of rhetoric. How to effectively persuade and convince people of your opinion on a given topic. Even further, we explored how to support those stances and opinions with credible facts.

Enter buzz words such as “fake news” and “alternative facts.” Suddenly, facts, statistics, research, and data didn’t hold the proverbial candle to something posted on Facebook. Too, people, the same espousing their strong love for fellow man and woman, began attacking one another on Facebook because it was easy to hide behind a screen and not have to account for their statements and actions.

So, I left it. It was making me sick. Mental stress and an overall loss of respect for people . . . it became difficult for me to remind myself that it isn’t my job to judge others.

A few years later, I returned to Facebook with a new modus operandi: I’ll start fresh and only add a small group of people — close friends, co-workers, and family. Fairly quickly, I landed at approximately 250 Facebook friends, and it was working out fairly well, even with the 2020 election cycle. Granted, I’d grown a bit myself in those four years and learned that there is no shame in snoozing someone you love for thirty days; give them a bit of time to get it out of their system, per se.

Alas, several months ago, my mother-in-law’s Facebook account was hacked by some lad in the Philippines with nothing better to do. My daughter is tagged in numerous photos contained within the account, so we all (including my wife) decided to delete the accounts and forget it all. I don’t regret it; I just know I won’t make the next high school reunion if the one friend I still chat with by phone decides living in Hickory makes me too much of a foreigner.

While I would like to think I fill my spare time with numerous things, I still found myself a bit idle on occasion. So, I did it (here comes the confession). I created a TikTok account. What am I doing? I don’t really know. But through it all, I have discovered one thing: While there are many areas of my life where I don’t want to remain innocent and naïve, there are some with which I am perfectly fine and comfortable remaining that way. In fact, I’ve discovered my niche for TikTok: #Catsof TikTok.

I grew up in a family with dogs. Big ones. Dobermans, boxer/bulldogs, you get the idea. It wasn’t until Leeann and I started living together that we converted to the almighty feline. For many years and moves, we’ve had Lucy. She has a propensity for tongue lolling (as evidenced below), and I just love her, as any good animal parent would.

Lucy, our tongue-lolling feline friend.

And so, I’ve started watching all these other cats on TikTok. I must admit, I’ve become rather infatuated by it all. I never knew cats would fight bananas, gag when you run your finger across a comb, and fly to the ceiling upon seeing a cucumber. I even discovered that the incomparable Sir Anthony Hopkins posts videos of himself with his kitty on TikTok which just further confirms my belief that he is the absolute coolest.

But today, I tell you all of that to tell you this: This concept of maintaining a little bit of innocence — maybe in this context meaning simply to have a moment where it is okay to “unplug” and decompress a bit — is vital in our world.

Coincidentally or not — not for me to decide — I ran across a quote in a book I have been reading. Found within Kristin Hannah’s The Four Winds, we read:

“She paused beside the largest of the tents, which had a wooden sign posted out front: LITTLE KIDS SCHOOL.

The tent next door read: BIG KIDS SCHOOL.

‘I reckon I’m big,’ Ant said.”

Anthony (Ant) is 9 years old. He’s at that age where he’s still “little,” but he doesn’t want anyone else to say that about him. If you read the book, you might also consider that life experience contributes much to the concept of “innocent,” sometimes much more than the age number. Do you remember that period of your life? I do. I wanted to be a “big boy.” In fact, I was so bold to tell mom and dad I didn’t want to be called a “kid.” How innocent . . . see my loop here?

My daughter is nearly six, and we have reached the point where she will flat call you out — literally stop everything to inform you of your wrongdoing— for calling her “little.” Not too long ago, it was perfectly acceptable for her to be my “little bit,” “little lady,” “little nugget,” or whatever other pet name I conceived for her. Now, forget “little” — only “young” will do. And what has she seen or done in life to warrant that desire to be titled with a different adjective? I’d love to know. Where does the shift originate, and maybe more importantly, why? Admittedly, I still wince a bit when, in my mid-30s, Leeann and I are called “the kids.” Of course, permitting perspective, we are, but you look at it differently when you lead your own life and have your own child, yet it doesn’t bother me now to be called a “child of God” though for many years it did. Funny stuff.

I’ll leave you with a lasting thought, as my brain synapses continue to connect dots. From Facebook and TikTok, to book quotes and Riley, I’m focused on this concept of innocence and how we perceive and understand it based upon, not only age numbers, but also life experiences. Below, you’ll find the video and lyrics to Don Henley’s 1989 song “The End of the Innocence.” During his solo career — amid the much-too-long break by The Eagles —I found this to be one of my favorite songs. Consider the words and, going forward, your own thoughts on this concept.

Don Henley performing “The End of the Innocence”

“Remember when the days were long
And rolled beneath a deep blue sky,
Didn’t have a care in the world
With mommy and daddy standing by,
When “happily ever after” fails
And we’ve been poisoned by these fairy tales,
The lawyers dwell on small details
Since daddy had to fly.

Oh, but I know a place where we can go
Still untouched by man,
We’ll sit and watch the clouds roll by
And the tall grass waves in the wind,
You can lay your head back on the ground
And let your hair fall all around me,
Offer up your best defense,
But this is the end,
This is the end of the innocence.

O’ beautiful, for spacious skies
But now those skies are threatening,
They’re beating plowshares into swords
For this tired old man that we elected king,
Armchair warriors often fail
And they’ve been poisoned by these fairy tales,
The lawyers clean up all details
Since daddy had to lie.

Oh, but I know a place where we can go
And wash away this sin,
We’ll sit and watch the clouds roll by
The tall grass waves in the wind,
Just lay your head back on the ground
And let your hair spill all around me,
Offer up your best defense,
But this is the end,
This is the end of the innocence.

Who knows how long this will last
Now we’ve come so far, so fast,
But somewhere back there in the dust
That same small town in each of us,
I need to remember this
So baby, give me just one kiss,
And let me take a long last look
Before we say good bye.

Just lay your head back on the ground
And let your hair fall all around me,
Offer up your best defense,
But this is the end,
This is the end of the innocence.”

— JB

Believer, father, husband, son, friend, teacher, reader, thinker, listener, writer. Mr. Burris to some, Jeremy to all.