Peter Pan Syndrome

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

This is a term I've created for myself that I use when referring to when the original spirit of an idea is misunderstood due to the passing of time. A few examples will be best to explain what I mean:

Peter Pan, and also the Little Prince: These books are about retaining one's childhood spirit, not becoming adults with hearts of stone who are only interested in numbers and so on. I remember disliking Peter Pan when I was young though as the book was clearly made by an adult, and an adult yearning for childhood really doesn't have much to do with the spirit of childhood at all. As children the first thing we wanted to do was become adults, not because we wanted to work and pay taxes and buy houses but because we wanted to become bigger and do greater things. Be stronger, stay out later, buy whatever we want whenever we wanted, that sort of thing. This is more along the lines of the spirit of childhood and Peter Pan always came across as just a story about an adult yearning for something from before, which is something children don't do. You never see kids in grade three yearning for preschool times, for example.

I did and still do prefer the Little Prince though as it focuses a lot on the sadness of a person that has lost something upon becoming an adult (which makes it feel much more real), rather than just a kind of fuzzy 'let's reclaim our childhood by imagining fanciful stuff' kind of philosophy.

Nostalgia for ancient societies: sometimes nostalgia for ancient societies such as the Celts (or whoever it was) that built Stonehenge or the Egyptians or whoever is co-opted by a kind of Neo-Luddism opposed to technology today, but this is wrong as well: these societies in their time were at the cutting edge of technology, and have much more to do with the spirit of Google and NASA today than with anything else.

King James Bible and other translations: the King James Bible comes across as rather archaic, but it was written in the modern vernacular of the time, and a translation in the spirit of its translation would not be intentionally archaic either.

Examples like these are what I've always personally called Peter Pan Syndrome, but I'm certain there's a real term for it. Something like semantic shift but pertaining to the spirit of an idea rather than just a word. Anybody know what this is called?

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