Susan's Thursday morning note June 11, 2009
The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupery
Importance of Relationships (even though pain comes at the end of all relationships)...not just existing.
Good morning! Is it gloomy out or cozy? I’ll go with cozy. Coffee tastes better in a cozy environment than a gloomy one! The alternative isn’t worth getting up for! (grin). I read this week a classic that I’ve never opened before – a book for children and adults…The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupery. The author was a pilot, and was never found after his plane went down in occupied France in 1944. This book is hard for me to describe. I am going to write out what I truly believe you’ll be glad I typed – then you’ll have to get the little paperback and read it all slowly.
I encourage you to wait until you have ten minutes – I hope you are able to read this entirely. On the importance of making relationships in our life, even though that will mean pain when the relationships end….not just existing (live as children, he writes – not as grown-ups!)
Describing the Little Prince seeing his own rose develop on his own planet (this is the only flower on his planet for him to care for) – I can’t leave this beautiful description out for gardeners!! (grin)
…but the flower continued her beauty preparations in the shelter of her green chamber, selecting her colors with the greatest care and dressing quite deliberately, adjusting her petals one by one. She had no desire to emerge all rumpled, like the poppies. She wished to appear only in the full radiance of her beauty. Oh yes, she was quite vain! All her mysterious adornment had lasted days and days. And then one morning, precisely at sunrise, she showed herself.
Authority (I thought of parent/child relationship)
The little prince visits planets that are all completely different, each with one person on them. The first was a king (ruling no one) but with this comment on authority:
…”If I commanded a general to fly from one flower to the next like a butterfly, or to write a tragedy, or to turn into a seagull, and if the general did not carry out my command, which of us would be in the wrong, the general or me?” “You would be,” said the little prince, quite firmly. “Exactly. One must command from each what each can perform. Authority is based first of all upon reason. If you command your subjects to jump in the ocean, there will be a revolution. I am entitled to command obedience because my orders are reasonable.”
On thinking of someone/something besides yourself:
He visited planets where the person on the planet did nothing for others (a vain man, the businessman, and a drunkard). He then arrives at a tiny planet where the sun rises & sets constantly. A lamplighter was alone on the planet lighting a lamppost, and the next second extinguishing the light. The little prince’s thoughts on this…
It’s quite possible that this man is absurd. But he’s less absurd than the king, the very vain man, the businessman, and the drunkard. At least his work has some meaning. When he lights his lamp, it’s as if he’s bringing one more star to life, or one more flower. When he puts out his lamp, that sends the flower or the star to sleep. Which is a fine occupation. And therefore truly useful….Now that man would be despised by all the others…yet he’s the only one who doesn’t strike me as ridiculous. Perhaps it’s because he’s thinking of something besides himself. (Here’s the fun part of this planet…What the little prince dared not admit was that he most regretted leaving that planet because it was blessed with one thousand, four hundred forty sunsets every twenty-four hours!)
*** Conversation between The Little Prince & an untamed fox – on how to and importance of developing “taming” relationships:
Then he arrives on the planet earth. The Earth is not just another planet! It contains 111 kings, 7000 geographers, 900,000 businessmen, 7.5 million drunkards, 311 million vain men…about 2 billion grown-ups. The little prince sees a field of roses, like his single rose that he left behind on his planet, that he had believed was unique and special. He was so disappointed to see that his rose was one of thousands. He then meets a fox and they have this discussion…
Fox: I can’t play with you – I’m not tamed.
The Little Prince: What does tamed mean?
Fox: It’s something that’s been too often neglected. It means, “to create ties.”
The Little Prince: To create ties?
Fox: That’s right. For me you’re only a little boy just like 100,00 other little boys. And I have no need of you. And you have no need of me, either. For you I’m only a fox like 100,000 other foxes. But if you tame me, we’ll need each other. You’ll be the only boy in the world for me. I’ll be the only fox in the world for you…
The Little Prince: I’m beginning to understand. There’s a flower…I think she’s tamed me…
Fox: …I’m rather bored. But if you tame me, my life will be filled with sunshine. I’ll know the sound of footsteps that will be e different from all the rest. Other footsteps send me back underground. Yours will call me out of my burrow like music. And then, look! You see the wheat fields over there? I don’t eat bread. For me wheat is of no use whatever. Wheat fields say nothing tome. Which is sad. But you have hair the color of gold. So it will be wonderful, once you’ve tamed me! The wheat, which is golden, will remind me of you. And I’ll love the sound of the wind in the wheat…Please tame me.
The Little Prince: I’d like to…but I haven’t much time. I have friends to find and so many things to learn.
Fox: The only things you learn are the things you tame. People haven’t time to learn anything. They buy things ready-made in stores. But since there are no stores where you can buy friends, people no longer have friends. If you want a friend, tame me!
The Little Prince: What do I have to do?
Fox: You have to be very patient. First, you’ll sit down a little ways away from me, over there, in the grass. I’ll watch you out of the corner of my eye, and you won’t say anything. Language is the source of misunderstandings. But day by day, you’ll be able to sit a little closer….(he goes on to say to come visit at the same time, for then the anticipation of knowing your friend will come will be added to the happiness).
Then they have to part. The sadness that comes because we became close to someone:
Fox: Ah! I shall weep.
The Little Prince: It’s your own fault, I never wanted to do you any harm, but you insisted that I tame you…
Fox: Yes, of course.
The Little Prince: But you’re going to weep!
Fox: Yes, of course.
The Little Prince: Then you get nothing out of it?
Fox: I get something, because of the color of the wheat. Go look at the roses again. You’ll understand that yours is the only rose in all the world.
Little fox’s conversation with the field of roses that didn’t belong to him: You’re not at all like my rose. You’re nothing at all yet. No one has tamed you and you haven’t tamed anyone. You’re the way my fox was. He was just a fox like 100,000 others, but I’ve made him my friend, and now he’s the only fox in all the world…You’re lovely, but you’re empty. One couldn’t die for you. Of course, an ordinary passerby would think my rose looked just like you. But my rose, all on her own, is more important than all of you together, since she’s the one I’ve watered. Since she’s the one I put under glass. Since she’s the one I sheltered behind a screen. Since she’s the one for whom I killed the caterpillars. Since she’s the one I listened to when she complained, or when she boasted, or even sometimes when she said nothing at all. Since she’s my rose.
Fox: Good-bye. Here is my secret. It’s quite simple. One sees clearly only with his heart. Anything essential is invisible to the eyes…it’s the time you spent on your rose that makes your rose so important…You become responsible forever for what you’ve tamed. You’re responsible for your rose…
This dialogue and good-bye ends with a scene of the little prince watching a locomotive go by with adults staring straight ahead – speeding back & forth to their jobs.
Little prince: What a hurry they’re in…what are they looking for?
Switchman: Not even the engineer on the locomotive knows.
Little Prince on seeing another train heading the opposite direction: Are they coming back already?
Switchman: It’s not the same ones, it’s an exchange.
Little Prince: They weren’t satisfied, were they?
Switchman: No one is ever satisfied where he is.
Then a third train thunders past…
Little Prince: Are they chasing the first travelers?
Switchman: They’re not chasing anything. They’re sleeping in there, or else they’re yawning. Only the children are pressing their noses against the windowpanes.
Little Prince: Only the children know what they’re looking for. They spend their time on a rag doll and it becomes important, and if it’s taken away from them, they cry.
Switchman: They’re lucky.
The book ends with the little prince dying (knowing he would die & saying his good-byes to those he “tamed” and loved) as he goes back to his planet.
Analogy with death – the end of the book.
Little Prince: People where you live grow 5,000 roses in one garden…yet they don’t find what they’re looking for…And yet what they’re looking for could be found in a single rose…But eyes are blind. You have to look with the heart. Then he discusses feeling so happy & so sad at the same time (like our writing last week!) (on discussion of being afraid to love because of the pain it would cause in the future with death or loss of friendship…or moving away…) You risk tears if you let yourself be tamed.
Finale – The important thing is what can’t be seen…At night, you’ll look up at the stars. It’s too small, where I live, for me to show you where my star is. It’s better that way. My star will be…one of the stars, for you. So you’ll like looking at all of them. They’ll all be your friends. And besides, I have a present for you. People have stars, but they aren’t the same. For travelers, the stars are guides. For other people, they’re nothing but tiny lights. And for still others, for scholars, they’re problems. For my businessman, they were gold. But all those stars are silt stars. You, though you’ll have stars like nobody else. When you look at the sky at night, since “I’ll be living on one of them, since I’ll be laughing on one of them, for you it’ll be as if all the stars are laughing. You’ll have stars that can laugh! And when you’re consoled (everyone eventually is consoled), you’ll be glad you’ve known me. You’ll always be my friend. You’ll feel like laughing with me. And you’ll open your window sometimes just for the fun of it. And your friends will be amazed to see you laughing while you’re looking up at the sky.
I look at Camden. Not just another rose. I loved this book. The love and relationships are worth the crying when they physically end. Life is so incredibly short. Think of the locomotives on our planet…only the children are peering out…dreaming…thinking…not just trying to find satisfaction…living in the moment…with their hearts. What will our epitaphs be tonight on our hours we lose today? Thank you for letting me send you my notes. I hope you can run in soon – the store is so fun to have here for you. And if the rain isn’t cozy, but gloomy for you – come over and be in the store with us. We have the great coffee or tea! Susan
Latin for this week:
Mortem vincit amor
just in the meaning that love (AMOR) survives/prevails (VINCIT) even after the death (MORTEM) of someone close.
Saint-Exupery, Antoine de. The Little Prince. 1943. Harcourt. New York.