Who of us has not wanted to recover the Pan within, to become more like our ideal and heroic self?
The initial step in recovering our own ideal identity is to visualize that identity, to grant our imagination permission to dream of a new us.
You and I need passion to empower our midlife dreams. We need a goal, a cause, a love beyond ourselves by which we can define ourselves.
Recovering the Pan Within
"Peter, don't you know who you are?" asks Granny Wendy in Steven Spielberg's "Hook." It's an important question, not only for Peter Banning played by Robin Williams, but for anyone who, like Banning, has lost sight of their adult identity.
For Spielberg's Peter Pan story is not just for children; it's a fairy tale for adults in need of a make-over. At midlife Peter Banning has lost his imagination and his passion. Held captive by both his ambition and his fear, he is isolated from both his family and his past. As a result, he has become that which he most hates: a pirate.
So when facing his old nemesis James Hook, Banning is really coming to terms with his alter ego, a ruthless corporate pirate concerned only with winning and wealth. When he fights and kills Hook, Banning is fighting and killing the part of himself he no longer wishes to serve.
"Hook" appeals to midlifers because we identify with the struggle. Who of us does not wake up some days to find that the life we are living is not the one we hoped for? Who of us has not wanted to recover the Pan within, to become more like our ideal and heroic self?
A revived imagination is Banning's first step toward regaining his identify, and for good reason. It is imagination which gives birth to dreams which, in turn, give birth to hope. Banning's identity has to be reborn in Never Never Land before it can be lived out in his own world.
Similarly, we cannot hope for that which we cannot first imagine. The initial step in recovering our own ideal identity is to visualize that identity, to grant our imagination permission to dream of a new us.
Yet changing self identity is never easy, not in the mind or in life itself. It's a battle we can't win without help. Spielberg makes the point in his film. Banning's enemies consistently remind him he is not, or at least he is no longer, "the Pan," while his friends affirm the opposite. Ultimately Banning's friends--Tinker Bell, Granny Wendy, the lost boys, his own children --convince Peter of the Pan within him.
This is why the best thing we can do for any midlifer is to affirm them. We all need people who will believe in our ideal selves despite the evidence to the contrary, evidence Banning's friends chose to ignore (sure he couldn't fly, but he would remember how, and he would defeat Captain Hook).
Yet even with Peter Banning's friends and his revived imagination, he still is not ready to defeat Hook because he still can't access his greatest strength; he still can't fly. Only passion will regain this ability. He must remember his "happy thought," which is just what happens as he remembers first holding his newborn son.
Love of family is the passion that ultimately gives Banning the courage and imagination to fly. Similarly, you and I need passion to empower our midlife dreams. We need a goal, a cause, a love beyond ourselves by which we can define ourselves.
So if you've been feeling too pirate-like lately, take a lesson from Peter Banning. Sprinkle a little fairy dust on your pillow tonight, and remember your happy thought. Happy flying, and don't forget: "Second star to the right and straight on 'til morning."
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