On Robin Williams, Imagination, and Peter Pan
“To die would be an awfully big adventure.”
― J.M. Barrie, Peter Pan.
Sir James Matthew Barrie’s 1911 novel of the boy who never grows up portrays the magical life of a boy who, as the story goes, never grows up. His name is well known, Peter Pan. In the 1991 film Hook, directed by Steven Spielberg, Robin Williams plays the role of Peter Pan. In this movie, though, there is a slight difference from the original Barrie’s story. The Peter Pan in Steven Spielberg’s adaptation is all grown up and different. He leads a “normal” life and has a family.
At first, I thought I would write an article about the legendary Robin Williams, who is in the news the past couple of days due to his apparent suicide. They say the actor was subdued by a serious depression. Overcome by a psychological darkness many individuals have decided to obliterate their physical existence, over the years; those include famous people and ordinary ones. What else can be done when the most important organ in human body, the gateway to the other world, human mind, is clouded by gloom and hopelessness?
A truth that I normally would not reveal to my orthodox family is that I love cinema. I would have become an actor had the bug of writing not been so adamantly affirming its space in my psyche. I love to watch movies and Robin Williams is part of that cinematic life-experience I gathered over the years. Two of my favorite movies include August Rush and Hook, both of them beautiful with Robin William’s unforgettable performances. An apparent irony hooked me and pained my heart when I first heard about Robin William’s demise. The irony then took me to another dimension of thinking. But what is that irony anyway?
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Hook is a different version of Peter Pan. In this adaptation, Steven Spielberg changes many things one might find in the Peter Pan novel or the play. However, two things, Mr. Steven Spielberg keep intact. These two ideas are crucial in understanding the significance of the novel as well as how to overcome depression. This, my dear readers, is the very irony I have been talking about. The same actor who played the key role in the movie about overcoming life’s problems had succumbed to life, or I would rather say succumbed to the lack of passion for life. That’s how I would like to define “depression”—lack of passion for life. On a minor scale, I myself am a victim of depression. I have written about it many times. Mostly, it appears to me in the form of “writer’s block”. I deal with it through writing and by passionately and determinedly bringing my mind back on track, in harmony with my creative life.
The creative energy that give birth to all beings and non-beings is the original source of all thought and non-thought. Therefore, once an individual finds harmony with that Creative Source, one is at peace. The peace that oozes from the Creative Source is everlasting (not just in a religious sense) and pure. Is there something called ‘pure peace’? Perhaps, there really is. In order to achieve this Divine peace and harmony, we have an impressive tool; Peter Pan’s magic spell—imagination.
Peter Pan, the boy who never grows up, has a limited life. This limitation is part of his identity, that of being static in growth. However, Stephen Spielberg changes this feature into a grown up individual’s experiences in life. The static life that the grown up Peter Pan experiences in the movie incurs quite the same agony as the lack of growth in a child, when one thinks about it. However, J. M. Barrie’s Peter Pan is surprisingly obsessed with this frozen growth. Peter views his life as an assortment of fun and play through a prolonged childhood.
There surely is more to this fascinating cute story than what meets the eye at a first glance. J. M. Barrie’s Peter Pan is a novel about bringing heat into frozen landscapes of our life. The boy who never grows up is utterly happy about his state of being a child always. However, observed closely, one can see clear signs of matured mental activity in Peter through the story. However, Peter hides effectively, all these traces of growing up through his funny games and word plays.
“Forget them, Wendy. Forget them all. Come with me where you'll never, never have to worry about grown up things again.” (spoken by Peter.)
One comes across some unbelievable plays from among the children and Peter Pan. In their child play, they are the saviors of Neverland from Captain Hook, a bloody pirate who captures children and makes them work in his pirate ship.
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Peter Pan, Wendy, and other children become part of the hunting games and battle games that take serious nature, often. The crocodile, Indians, pirates, the fear of forgetting, all bind the children into believing in the necessity of trusting Peter Pan’s magical formula. A clearer understanding of this can be obtained from the Stephen Spielberg movie Hook, in which Robin Williams realizes, as an adult the importance of having a powerful imagination. Yes, the magic formula of Peter Pan.
From the frozenness of life, the fear of losing beloved ones, and being forgotten by others Peter Pan rises to self-actualization by employing the formula called imagination.
“Of all the delectable islands the Neverland is the snuggest and most compact, not large and sprawly, you know, with tedious distances between one adventure and another, but nicely crammed. When you play at it by day with the chairs and table-cloth, it is not in the least alarming, but in the two minutes before you go to sleep it becomes very nearly real. That is why there are night-lights.”
The word imagination was borrowed into English from Latin. The Latin verb “imaginari” means to “picture to oneself”. In other words, imagination suggests a highly subjective act, wherein one holds an image to oneself about anything or anyone in any way that pleases or conforms to one’s intentions.
Imagination surely interferes with the acculturation of any individual and thus it affects others, not just the individual involved in the process of imagining something. Imagine yourself to be someone else or something else. The moment you do, you are transcending the information given to you about yourself by the society. Who we are, in our cultures, is more important that who we want to become. In the latter, one transcends the dictums of the society, and in the former, there is an unquestioned submission to the will of the social structure. This is what causes Peter’s fear of losing Neverland and his beloved friends to forgetting.
How does imagination become the magic formula then? The Book of Proverbs suggests what we need here.
and whatever you get, get insight.” __Proverbs 4: 7
Imagination with insight can lead a man into new horizons of understanding, clear-sightedness, and thus, joy. Imagination in its raw usage might jeopardize one’s harmony with the social surroundings. However, applied with insight, imagination can be the best tool to surpass and solve existential dilemmas. This is the very reason Peter Pan, at the end of the novel comes out victorious against Hook and the crocodile.
A rather outward directed imagination is what we see when Peter suggests to Wendy “Never say goodbye…” However, the insightful practice of imagination could only get them out of the dilemmas of Neverland. Insightful imagination brings the crocodile with a clock in its belly to the pirate ship.
Albert Einstein’s words are of seminal importance here, to drive this point home.
“I am enough of an artist to draw freely upon my imagination. Imagination is more important than knowledge. Knowledge is limited. Imagination encircles the world.”__ Albert Einstein.
What else? Well, I wish, Robin Williams, the Peter Pan of world cinema had realized that the frozen gloom of mind could be overcome. I wish he had thought of a second chance.
Perhaps, he is in on an adventure.
Yes, he might be.