The Little Prince

Now that finals are starting and classes are over, I have time to sit down with a book, read, and write. My friend recommended The Little Prince, a book many say should be read at least three times – once when you are young, again when you are an adult, and finally when you are old.

One of the first themes the story hits you with is the loss of (seemingly innocent) creativity and imagination as you grow old. In college, I am seeing this pattern unfold right in front of me, even happening within myself.

I know a planet where there is a certain red-faced gentleman. He has never smelled a flower. He has never looked at a star. He has never loved any one. He has never done anything in his life but add up figures. And all day he says over and over, just like you: ‘I am busy with matters of consequence!’ And that makes him swell up with pride. But he is not a man–he is a mushroom!

“Sorry I can’t spend time with you, I have to study!” It feels that the older I get, the faster time passes. I remember when I used to think that the 4 years of high school lasted an eternity. Now 1 year of college has gone by like a breeze. It seems that competitive schools are a pipeline into the rat race for more money and status, things that allow us to put on a face of pride. But the loss of creativity the story presents isn’t the only thing adults lose as they grow older. What’s important isn’t some ability to arbitrarily imagine that this hat looking drawing is actually a boa that has swallowed an elephant (or something crazy like seeing dead people in a blotch of spilled ink.

little-prince-hatlittle-prince-boa-elephant

The sad reality is growing up and getting preoccupied with what we think are “matters of consequence.” Regardless of whatever these matters of consequence are: going to college so that you can make more money, befriending this person so you can get professional connections, reading a book so you can get something out of it, I think the problem lies in the very consequences you see in whatever activity you are getting yourself into. This actually relates a lot to the practice of zazen meditation in Buddhism. If you sit with the intention of getting enlightened, you will in fact never get enlightened. As we grow older, we stop doing things for what they areEverything becomes a matter of consequence.


The story’s idea of taming stuck with me because of how intimately it describes love and beauty.

“You are not at all like my rose,” he said. “As yet you are nothing. No one has tamed you, and you have tamed no one. You are like my fox when I first knew him. He was only a fox like a hundred thousand other foxes. But I have made him my friend, and now he is unique in all the world.”
“You are beautiful, but you are empty,” he went on. “One could not die for you. To be sure, an ordinary passerby would think that my rose looked just like you–the rose that belongs to me. But in herself alone she is more important than all the hundreds of you other roses: because it is she that I have watered; because it is she that I have put under the glass globe; because it is she that I have sheltered behind the screen; because it is for her that I have killed the caterpillars (except the two or three that we saved to become butterflies); because it is she that I have listened to, when she grumbled, or boasted, or ever sometimes when she said nothing.
Because she is my rose.
“Only the children know what they are looking for,” said the little prince. “They waste their time over a rag doll and it becomes very important to them; and if anybody takes it away from them, they cry . . .”
Taming the fox, having patience and spending time with him, is what distinguishes him from all the other foxes in the world. It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye.

 

It is difficult to put in words a review (if you suppose) of this book because there are still many metaphors and messages I don’t understand. For instance, why the snake speaks in riddles in Chapter 17:

“You move me to pity–you are so weak on this Earth made of granite,” the snake said. “I can help you, some day, if you grow too homesick for your own planet. I can–” “Oh! I understand you very well,” said the little prince. “But why do you always speak in riddles?” “I solve them all,” said the snake. And they were both silent.

This book was originally in French, and the English translation is written beautifully. Reading this story has left me with many questions — questions I know will unfold as I grow older. The Little Prince is worth reading, it’s also fairly short and would take 1-2 hours to read, so you should go check it out! Here’s a link to a free pdf.

Warmth

Today’s the first day I’m back in college. I feel like throughout my life, as I’ve been growing older, most of the emotions I’ve been feeling have been difficult. Growing up is hard, as I have told many people. But being back here in my dorm, with my best friends in my room, I feel like I can take a break. Take a break not to enjoy the flowers, not to enjoy the snow falling outside, but to enjoy the warmness weighing down in my heart as I’m here with my friends. I’m present here. Four months ago, when I first met these people, we played awkward ice breaker games in a room trying to get to know each other.

After graduating high school and entering my first semester here at Swarthmore, I’ve been a pretty social person. I was extremely confident with large groups, but something that I struggled with was making close friends. I was scared at the beginning of college. I was scared that I would know many people superficially but not have any real friends. But right now, in my room, this warmness I’m feeling is extremely heavy. It’s so heavy that it is squeezing tears down my eyes because I know that I have found the people who I truly care about. I have found the people who, at any party, I am truly free and can tell them anything. I have found the people who I know also care about me.

Who would’ve thought that on the first day I’m back I would cry. Who would’ve thought that I would cry with the same person who brought me to tears at one of the first parties of the year. I remember at that party, I didn’t feel the need to go out to any fraternity house or go out to dance to loud music because being present with the people I care about was all that mattered to me.

This warmness is something that I’ve never felt before. I don’t know what it feels like to finally reconnect with a friend for over ten years, but I imagine that this is what it would feel like. I have only known these people for 4 months, but I feel like I can spend forever with them. For somebody else to call me a best friend. For somebody else to care about me is something that I could only try to repay.

This warmness that is so heavy, so heavy in my heart it is squeezing tears down my eyes because I know that I have found the people who I truly care about. This warmness that is so heavy, this warmness that I have found tonight is something that I can only try to express with words.

This warmness in my heart is so heavy, I can hold you all in my embrace forever. But right now I’m not thinking of the future. I’m just cherishing this moment we’re sharing together.