Novels and films across all genres have described man’s quest to find an elusive source of eternal youth. Whether it is the Holy Grail, the Fountain of Youth, or an inventive medical procedure, we’ve made it pretty clear that we’d do just about anything to stay forever young.
One of the most beautiful and imaginative literary inventions for avoiding the adverse effects of aging was Neverland, which first appeared in J.M. Barrie’s stage version of Peter Pan in 1904 and was described in greater detail in the 1911 release of his novel, Peter and Wendy. An island full of fantasy and adventure, Neverland is a magical place where children never have to grow up.
But is this really a good thing? Imagine for a moment that we found our way to Neverland. We would find eternal childhood, but what would we miss?
- We’d miss growing into independence, with all of the mishaps and adventures that we find along the way. Stuck forever at the starting line, we’d never be allowed to truly begin life’s journey!
- We’d miss the pleasure of discovering who we were made to be. In other words, we could live a lifetime of childhood fantasy without ever truly understanding or reaching our full potential.
- We’d miss the wisdom and honor that come only from years of experience and a life well-lived.
- We’d miss the beauty of mature relationships that may begin as strong friendships, but take years to develop and deepen.
- We’d miss the deep satisfaction of knowing we’ve finished our course and have left a lasting legacy that will enrich generations to come.
One author who grasped this truth was James Hilton, who released the novel, Lost Horizon, in 1933. His novel describes a plane that happens to crash in the magical paradise of Shangri-La, where no one ever grows old and has all the time in the world to pursue their wildest dreams. After a while, however, the lead characters began to realize the futility of such a life – without an end in sight, everyone lives in a hopeless state of complacency. Without an end to live for, the people of Shangri-La don’t really live at all.
Eventually the characters are able to repair their airplane and escape from Shangri-La, taking a young woman with them. Though she only lives for a few moments after leaving the enchanted place, Hilton describes the beauty and color that rush to her face in those few thrilling moments, and says that she “had never looked so radiant.”
We tend to fear getting older, but perhaps we ought to embrace it and cherish every single moment. The Lord didn’t create us to remain stagnant, but gave us the ability to develop, to make progress, to transform into more than we ever thought we could be… to grow up.
Neverland is a beautiful fantasy, but it doesn’t hold a candle to the breathtaking adventure we find in growing up, and growing up well.
Picture Credit: “Neverland” by MercedesJK, at mercedesjk.deviantart.com