Put a few children on an island with no adults to supervise them. Watch from a distance what they do. In no time you will have to intervene in order to save them from themselves.
William Golding wrote a novel on that theme. Lord of the Flies, the novel by the Nobel laureate, tells the story of some children who were marooned on an island. Soon savagery dominates their life. The benign Ralph loses to the bullying Jack. Evil triumphs. There is no childhood innocence. There is only the savagery that marks humanity essentially.
Three years before Lord of the Flies was published, American literature was blessed with J D Salinger’s Catcher in the Rye (1954) which told the story of a 16 year-old boy, Holden Caulfield, whose dream was to preserve children’s innocence from the necessary corruption of adults. Holden ends up in the loony bin.
One has to lose innocence if one is to remain sane in the human world. Growing up is necessarily to embrace evil or at least grapple with it. There is no escape. When you die, as Holden tells us in the novel, people will come and put “a bunch of flowers on your stomach on Sunday.” When you are alive, all they give you is crap. Holden detested people. And the psychiatrist thought he was insane. After a year’s treatment in the asylum, Holden could not begin to love people. But he was willing to accept their limitations.
Holden didn’t grow up, in short. Did that help him anyway? Not at all. Accepting that human nature is essentially more evil than good is important in the process of growing up. Childhood innocence is a good romantic notion. It does no good to anyone trying to make it a gospel. The harsh reality is that we can only grow up to evil or at least grappling with it; there is no way to grow down to childlike innocence. The harsh truth is that there is nothing like childlike innocence. Unless you keep the child locked away from the world of men!
As poet Gerard Manley Hopkins told the little girl Margaret, “as the heart grows older / It will come to such sights colder.” Margaret has to grow up and learn the sorrows that accompany human existence. There is no growing down.
PS. Inspired by the latest Indispire theme: "You will find more happiness growing down than up". Do you wish to relive your childhood? #nostalgia