Assume you’re a man. A broke, hustling man. Hustling because you’re unemployed and your mother told you that you had to do something with your life, not just steal your father’s cigarettes and sit around. You’re a Jack of all Trades, but nothing ever seems to stick. You’ve been fired twice, once because of being intoxicated at work, and the second time because the company thought it deserved better than what you had to offer. Sucks balls, right? And as if that’s not enough, your current ‘job’, which is being an attendant at your mother’s M-pesa & Gas cylinders shop, is in jeopardy. Why? Because business since Ruto’s Government took over has been at its worst. It could also be because you take a few hundreds every night for your personal use- A ‘real man’ shouldn’t walk around with empty pockets. But that had nothing to do with it, right? After all, if your mother’s shop can’t handle spending a few hundreds, what business does it have been a business?
The term Puer Aeternus is Latin for ‘eternal boy’. It was mostly used in reference to a child-god in Greek and Roman mythology. The puer is the god of divine youth and resurrection, but in psychology-Jungian psychology- the puer Aeternus is a primordial element of the human psyche, better known to us as the Peter-Pan Syndrome.
If you know anything about Peter Pan, you know that the boy was stuck in a loop of endless childhood, flying around in his company of lost boys as they interacted with mermaids, ferries and all the mythical creatures you can think of. Peter Pan is more or less a cultural emblem that symbolises escapism and youthful innocence. That period of our lives where it’s all roses and sunshine, before our awareness kicks in, shedding light on the tragedies awaiting.
For the man-child, being grounded in reality is a punishment on its own, as it lacks the newness and excitement that hedonistic adventures offer. He prefers being lost in thought, fantasizing about the greatness that his future harbours, but committing to nothing that needs consistent effort and commitment. He’ll try working, but something about the work will not sit right with him. His infantile tendencies will more often than not put an end to whatever noble endeavours he has, pushing him back to the temporary comfort his old patterns offered. He takes delight in avoiding the pain his reality poses, but in turn, makes himself a slave to his whims and wants.
To him, being an adult is akin to being in prison. He loathes routine and order and expects other people to adopt responsibilities that were otherwise his. He basks in fantasies of how special he is, and longs for independence and freedom, but does nothing to earn the things he yearns for. He is like a King without a Kingdom, a painter with no paintings. He is blinded by the paradise that was his childhood, where no responsibilities were his and no commitments were expected of him. He, therefore, tries to chase the ghost of his childhood comfort by indulging in temporary pleasures. Such a man is too deluded to build anything of substance, as he lacks the grounding that’s needed to start and finish anything that matters. He is dissatisfied with his current existence but is also convinced that the best day to change is tomorrow. To him, the rules and entrapments that come with being an adult are too high a price to pay, so he condemns himself to an eternity of blissful ignorance, and stores his problems away in a box.
The man-child’s only salvation is to heed life’s call to adventure. He must awake from his stupor and see his life for what it is. He must embrace the burden that comes with responsibility and work so as to articulate his character and individuality. This is his rite of passage. This is his baptism by fire.
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