Very few live action movies make more of an impression on me than their cartoon counterparts, but Peter Pan is an exception.
The animated version paints Peter as a boy with an insatiable craving for adventure. However, the live action version goes a bit deeper. In it, Peter displays childish giddiness, but also the inability and refusal to feel emotions such as guilt and love or accept the consequences of his actions. Also, he, unlike the 19th century grown up Londoners back on earth, is free of worry, responsibility, and grief, and because of this, is able to fly indefinitely, running on an endless supply of happy thoughts.
This got me thinking: Is J.M. Barrie correct in suggesting that the tradeoff for growing up is the loss of the ability to fly, in other words, being truly happy?
To answer that, we first have to define growing up. To me, it’s the acceptance of responsibility and the consideration of the effect that our actions have on those around us. All in all, restricting our impulsiveness to get along with people. But how can that in itself make us unhappy?
Accepting and listening to others is hard, because it means having to think and consider other peoples needs and sometimes place them above your own. As we grow older and become involved in activities that require us to work with more and more people, (school, college, work, etc.) life is not so simple anymore. All of a sudden, we become aware of the stares we get in public if we cry, shout, or break into song. We can no longer do the things we liked to do without wondering what others might think. And don’t give me that “I don’t care what other people think of me” crap. I’m pretty sure that if I said exactly what’s on my mind when I spoke to people, I’d be dead by now. And in an extreme case, if someone decided to drop their pants in the middle of a busy intersection, he’d probably be taken in for public nudity and disturbing the peace if he isn’t run over first. Basically, you adapt, or you’re shunned.
When it comes down to it, I believe the phrase “childhood bliss” is synonymous with “ignorance of everyone around you”. During infancy, no one else matters except you, and anyone who happens to exist is there to make you happy. You are free to do practically anything you want without having to worry about the social consequences of those actions. The reaction you would get when you tell your friends about the time you ran out of the house in your birthday suit at 5 would be slightly different than if it had happened last week. With this ultimate immunity, we are all in a way Peter Pans till a certain age, born with a liberating freedom that lets us float right off the ground.
However, if this is true, we can concluded that the root of all sadness lies in the difficulty some may face in getting used to the millions of eyes that bore into us every waking minute, and the pressure we feel to keep up our reputations and meet the requirements demanded of us by our families, friends, and superiors. In A Doll’s House, the protagonist, Nora steps out of her childish existence when she takes it upon herself to borrow some money for a medicinal trip to
for her husband Torvald. She prides herself in this act until he finds out and
makes her face the consequences for overstepping her role as a subordinate wife.
With her brief journey into adulthood, Nora sees that taking fate into her own
hands, even for benevolent purposes, can bring conflict and resentment. This is
what makes me believe that children are the only exception in our dissatisfied world.
Just like Nora in her ignorant days, they are free from this worry, free from
this stress. There’s a reason why no one has heard of a 3 year old committing
suicide because he or she gave up on life out of frustration.
Adulthood in itself turns out to be a package that has some perks: a debit card, driver’s license, the ability to drink, and a weekly paycheck, but at the same time a thousand and one problems one must face every minute of every day. You are no longer Peter Pan, circling above Captain Hook with a grin on your face. You are the lone protector of Wendy, John, Michael, and the Lost Boys, and you are aware that if you don’t defeat Hook, they will die right along with you. I agree with Adarsh’s theory in his essay “The Grass is Only Spray-Painted Greener” that happiness in adulthood can be achieved with the absence of the desire for greater things, but I also believe that to be truly satisfied with life, one would have to renounce all dependents and critics or be obnoxiously self-assured.