A Child Who Survived
The vapid statement “the creative adult is the child who survived” is currently being attributed to me by something called Aiga —
which is “supported in part by public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council.” I wasn’t able to communicate with Aiga to ask them to take my name off their design.
It probably wouldn’t do much good anyhow. A false attribution on the Internet is like box elder beetles, the miserable little things just keep breeding and tweeting and crawling out of the woodwork.
I posted on my blog and at Book View Café on this persistent misattribution last year. Early and very welcome responses to it by Meelis and Jonathan on BVC gave me both the sentence I wrote, and a possible source of the misquotation.
Meelis pointed out this sentence in the 1974 essay “Why Are Americans Afraid of Dragons?” (reprinted in the collection The Language of the Night):
I believe that maturity is not an outgrowing, but a growing up: that an adult is not a dead child, but a child who survived.
Nothing about “creativity” whatever. I just said a grown-up is somebody who lived through childhood — a child who survived. A truism, of course, but in 1974 I had reasons for stating it. The disavowal of childishness that is part of assuming adulthood, particularly male adulthood, can become a denial of the value of any connection to oneself as a child or to children in general. It was acceptable, forty years ago, for people to boast of disliking children. It was all but automatic for critics to deny adult value to fantasy literature simply by saying it was ‘for children.’ And some feminists of the Seventies, wanting to free women from sole responsibility for children, denied any natural connection to them at all. This was the mindset I was addressing. I was just trying to keep the child-adult connection open, and free of contempt.
Jonathan discovered that the earliest appearance on the Internet of the misquote was in 1999, from a huge collection of quotations compiled by Professor Julian F. Fleron:
The professor gave no source for the sentence; I have no idea why he attributed it to me.
It is high time that this sentence, “The creative adult is the child who has survived,” be attributed to its originator, Prof. Julian F. Fleron.
If he did not originate it, and wishes to be freed from the onus of supposedly having done so, that’s up to him or to those who wish to preserve his good name. I just wish, oh how I wish! that he hadn’t stuck me with the damn thing.
28 December 2015