Day 23 – A picture of your favorite book.
From my first reading of it as a child, I’ve loved The Little Prince. I’m sure that in my 10-year-old self, the appeal was in the author’s quirky view of adults and the opening scene where the Little Prince wants a sheep, and after many failed attempts at producing an acceptable sheep, the grown-up presents him with a box so he can see what he wants. As a child, I understood, perhaps unconsciously, that to see with a child’s innocence was something of value…and that sadly, adults become consumed with the daily grind and lose sight of that wonder. I wanted always to retain that. I often fail, as an adult, to remember this lesson…consumed as I tend to be by deadlines, bills, and responsibility to a household instead of recognizing my joys in the people who fill that household.
Whatever the reasons for falling in love with the book, it has remained for almost 40 years, one of my favorite books, and one that I reread just about every decade. Sometimes more, if the mood strikes me.
It is a book, among other things, about friendship and love, and how we must tame each other, like the Little Prince tamed the Fox. In loving another we must give of ourselves to that person. The joy of the giving is greater than the receiving. Of course, when we have true friends, no matter how much we give, our loved ones give in return in equal or greater measure, no? It’s a beautiful thing, this sharing.
As I grew up and made friends based on shared interests and experiences, I valued the lessons in the book more. In establishing these relationships, I came to know others better, and in the process, got to know myself. I can’t say that the book has been a guide in this discovery — more like in the rereading I have seen, in the parable, that it captures our natures as human beings. There is loneliness throughout the story, both by the grown-up who was lost in the desert, the only human being for miles and miles, and the Little Prince, an alien in this world. I have felt empathy for both, and yet, they find each other and risk themselves in the discovery.
For a long time, I thought that was it…that the theme of love and friendship was the overwhelming motif in the book. If that had been all, it would have still been a powerful little book for me. But of course, as I’ve grown older I find myself asking even more questions than when I was younger. I can’t really say those questions have been drawn from thoughts of mortality although we do tend to have more opportunities for those thoughts as we get older. It’s more like I have the life experience to recognize that no matter how many questions I have, and no matter how much I seek to find the answers, I don’t have them and probably never will.
Hold on a sec, lest you think I’m depressing myself. It’s more about understanding that life is a mystery. Taken to yet another level, the book is about faith. The book begins in a desert, and throughout the story the characters thirst…and seek to quench that thirst with substitutes for the truly quenching properties of water.
How did I miss that? The only truly fulfilling thing is to drink deeply from the cool waters of the well. I don’t know if St. Exupery was particularly religious, but it certainly reminds me of the story of the woman at the well. Like the conversation between the woman and Jesus was not about actual water, but the spiritual refreshment of faith, so too, is the story of the Little Prince.
At the end, when the Little Prince “falls down,” the lasting image is of a star — that reminds us, not just that he is gone, but that he remains.