Owlish Contemplations · Pandora's Box

My Neverland

I don’t think I truly appreciated the story of “Peter Pan” until I grew up. I don’t think many of us did. As children we love the story because that is our world … the world where anything can happen including Indians, pirates, and fairies all on one island. People can fly, pixie dust is common, and boys who never grow up sound like a good idea.

But it is when we actually grow up that we realize the power of the story. Neverland suddenly becomes far more beautiful because it represents the spirit of our childhood – that elusive dream that is suddenly now gone. And while I wouldn’t actually wish to never grow up (growing up has delights that Peter simply could not fathom and didn’t give himself the chance to try), Neverland will always hold a cherished spot in my heart – because it is the safe depository where dreams of childhood can still live on. It’s my reminder when the tough days of adulthood threaten to take over that magic still exists through the eyes of a child. It’s the memory of a simpler time … the spark of imagination that easily gets lost in mundane, realistic duties … the whisper of children saying, “Please keep inspiring us and giving us this playground of delight to enjoy while we can.”

It’s like in the movie Finding Neverland when Peter says before his play is performed, “It’s only a bit of foolishness” and James Barrie responds, “I should hope so!” – we have to keep the world safe for childlike foolishness. Not the kind of foolishness that gets us in trouble, but the kind of foolishness that adults scoff at … the kind where anything can happen – and it does. I don’t want my children to grow up too quickly. I don’t want them to be sucked in to a world of “grown-up trappings” before they’ve explored every nook and cranny of Neverland. I don’t want to force them to give up their dreams before they’ve realized just how beautiful they can get.

I want them to see the fairies the way I did … write stories down as they spring to mind … go dancing with the wind … talk to their imaginary friends … wear costumes and put on plays with their friends. I want them to embrace a world of pure freedom and uninhibited joy. I want them to laugh with untainted sweetness and build magical empires in backyards, parks, and basements.

Oh, I can laugh at the clubs I had as a child with my friends – giggle at how we were sure we’d solve mysteries as the Agents of Truth – make fun of my Puritan costume & poodle-skirt wearing days – poke fun at the impossible stories I wrote – and wonder how I got away with half the stuff I did as a child – but I wouldn’t change it for the world. I was utterly unconscious of what other people thought of me. I embraced the world that was miles wide in my imagination as well I should have. As well every child should. The beauty of those days is what brings me so close to the children I now work with – because I remember [not as well as I should] how the world looked through wide-eyed nine- and ten-year old lenses.

We might have to say good-bye to Neverland. We might have to accept reality as an adult and not be so caught up in our fancies. It’s true. We do have to stop pretending at some point. Because no matter how hard you pretend, some things just won’t come true. But for the sake of the children out there, please don’t let’s ever let Neverland die. We must keep it alive, like we keep the fairies alive – by believing in their magic. And in this magical place where imagination is encouraged to thrive we may yet bring forth the next great author, poet, musician, dancer, politician, doctor or lawyer. Because every dream that is accomplished all begins with the magical “What If …”

(Inspired by one of my all-time favorite movies, “Finding Neverland.”)

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