Friday, May 9, 2014

May 9, 2014

May 9, 2014

I was reading a biography on J.M. Barrie, the author of “Peter Pan, ” and the origins of that narrative is highly interesting.  His mother took over her deceased mother’s household when she was eight, and therefore probably didn’t have a normal childhood.  Many years later, when Barrie was 6 years old, his older brother, David, was killed in a skating accident when he was 14.  David was the mother’s favorite child of the eight children that she gave to the world.  The one thing that made her happy was that David will never grow older and therefore never leave her.  She would dress Barrie in David’s old clothes, and he would even whistle a tune that David did when alive. An existing passport exposed that J.M. Barrie, as a grown adult, was only 5 feet and two inches.  Charles Baudelaire wrote that "Genius is no more than childhood recaptured at will."  Barrie, without doubt, had an understanding of the nature of children and how they see the world through the point-of-view of being reconciled with adulthood.

On the opposite end, Baldur von Schirach wanted to squash childhood for the “state” or empire that was therefore the theory of the National Socialist German Worker’s Party.  His “Hitler Youth” basically was a nightmare version of the Boy Scouts (which, to be fair, have their own issues), but its only mission was to train youth to be adults in the Nazi idea of being citizens of the empire.  Schirach encouraged bullying, spying, and any group that uses the motto Blut ind Ehre (“Blood and Honor”) you know is very far away from the theory of Barrie, regarding lost childhood.  It is taboo to mess with a child's innocence, but one wonder if such innocnece really exist in the first place.  The world in front of us, is anything but innocent, and I think children are wise to the fact that there are numerous worlds operating at the same time. It now comes to mind, the movement behind the White Rose, which was a non-violent German resistance to Hitler and his regime.  The beautiful (in a sense, my Wendy) Sophie Scholl was a member of the White Rose, and eventually she was caught and executed by the Nazis. She died when she was 21, and I often think that is such a crucial age where youth turns into an adult.  Like what the Nazis did to its own youth, they also killed its one bright light, and therefore it is a beauty that can’t die for me.

 I know, as a fact, that I was afraid to grow up, because I realize that childhood for me was a sense of protection.   When one came to a certain age, the world becomes real, sometimes horribly real.  It is luck, and the narrative of history, that I didn't have to go to the Vietnam war.   The draft got pulled back just as I reached the age of 18 years old.  But I clearly remember the anxiety of the thought of turning 18, and what that would entail for my life at the time.  "Peter Pan" had a special appeal for me around the age of 16.

On one end, I wanted to have a life that was similar to Gabriele D’Annunzio.  I didn’t like the war part, but I loved the thought of him as the King of decadents, and I even admired his ‘dandyish’ take on warfare.  The Vietnam war to me, seemed very un-dandy like, and therefore turned me off on military aesthetics or anything that go into the war machinery.   But I did admire that D’Annunzio wrote poetry as a teenager, and his interest at that time in promoting Italian irredentism, which was a nationalistic approach to Italy, where the unification of Italian speaking peoples and territories deemed to be Italian lands.   Bear in mind this is a teenager's view of the world, and my admiration for him is only skin-deep.   When the world lacked romance at such a young age, one tends to be pulled by a figure like D'Annunzio, who didn't honestly seem to bring a promise, but more to the fact that he will burn as he moves closer to the sun.  Nevertheless one enjoys the thought of heading towards the Sun to challenge its might.

The truth is childhood slowly or quickly turns into Albert Finney’s fascinating character, Arthur Seaton, in the film “Saturday Night and Sunday Morning,”  who is a young machinist at a Nottingham factory, and slowly sees the world of his youth turn into an adult nightmare.  He rebels against the world by drinking and fucking on the weekend, but by the rules of the culture, he must serve as a tool in the work-week.  Eventually to follow the footsteps of his parents, in other words, older people to do what they have to do to live in a world that is so far away from childhood.  Also I admire another British writer, Alan Bennett, whose play "The History Boys" captures the twilight years of young turning into old.  As I approach my older age, I think in all honesty, I prefer the world of Peter Pan and Neverland.   I enjoy the thought of youth, but I wish to be 'adult' about it.

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