Saturday, August 06, 2005
What are real matters of consequence?
Before I start reading a thick book this summer, I thought I'd revisit The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupery. The Little Prince may seem like a children’s book but it really addresses both the children and the adults in us. This is a story about love and loneliness.
I first read this book when I was a Freshman at Centro Escolar University. My Psychology teacher suggested that we read The Little Prince. And I did. That’s how easily one can persuade me. Well, not all the time.
The narrator is a pilot who met the little prince when he was stranded in the Sahara Desert. The narrator learned that the little prince lived alone in a tiny planet no larger than a house and where he owned three volcanoes, two active and one extinct. He also owned a flower, one of a kind, very beautiful but very proud. It was this pride that set the little prince to travel and he told the narrator about the different kinds of adults and creatures that he met. The reader will realize that one encounters these characters regularly.
The king claims that he rules the universe. Although his orders are reasonable, they are ridiculous. He gives orders that people will do anyway, such as yawning. The conceited man hears only praises. He craves for admiration. The tippler (drunkard) drinks to forget that he is ashamed of drinking. The businessman is too much occupied with counting the stars, which he claims he owns yet he doesn’t know what they are called. He is too busy to even greet and talk to his visitor. The lamplighter is the only one of them all whom the little prince could have befriended because he is the only one thinking of something else besides himself. But his planet has no room on it for two people. The geographer hasn’t explored his own magnificent planet because he believed that it is the explorer’s job, yet he has not a single explorer on his planet. “The grown-ups are certainly very, very odd,” the little prince said.
On earth, the little prince met a snake that only speaks in riddles because it claims that it can solve them all. He came upon a garden of roses where he realized that his rose wasn’t one of a kind after all. He met a fox that taught him how to tame (establish ties with) it because “One only understands the things that one tames.” The fox also revealed its secret to the little prince: “It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye.” The fox explained, “It is the time you have wasted for your rose that makes your rose so important.”
The little prince also met a railway switchman who explained to him that travelers rush to different directions and are never satisfied where they are and that “only the children know what they are looking for.” He met a merchant who sold pills that quench thirst “because they save a tremendous amount of time. With these pills, you save fifty-three minutes in every week.” Yet the little prince said to himself, “If I had fifty-three minutes to spend as I liked, I should walk at my leisure toward a spring of fresh water.
The Little Prince reminds us of the innocence of children and their constant thirst for knowledge. It also reminds us how adults are sometimes dull and unimaginative and how they are always busy with matters of consequence.
The Little Prince is a tiny book full of profound and hidden meanings.