Tuesday, February 9, 2010

The Little Prince

Inspired by a great post from Angela, I wanted to look up The Little Prince. I've never read it, and actually, never even heard of it before. So, impatiently, yet somewhat fittingly - I was thinking of going out tonight to see if I could get a hard copy of the book somewhere but I'm a hothead who's starting to learn to trust his intuition more- I decided that reading it on the net would be a good warm up, to see if I liked it. Sorta like music I guess...

As discussed with Adam on the road trip (and previously elsewhere), there is certainly something to the randomness of songs on the satellite radio, or the ability to hold an album in you hands, vs. the mp3 internet download thing. As a kid, I remember buying albums based on one or two songs and I'm sure others did too. I don't do that anymore, but it did seem to make a lot of those albums classics as one had really invested in them; you damn well were going to listen to them, and moreover be influenced to like them because of the investment.

There's almost a stop and interrupt effect here, isn't there? Remember this: How to make good experiences even more pleasurable (and bad ones even worse) from here? As in, putting in that extra time, pausing, thinking, and listening, really made some of the records just jump out, and others really sound crappier than the crap they were, if possible.

On satellite radio, the randomness of the songs, as well as their short lived existence (i.e. no chance for a repeat) make them special. With a record, you pay an even greater price than time and randomness, but you also now own it. Because of these investment, I think we agreed one really does appreciate it more, both in regards to the satellite and album listenings, as compared to the mp3 variety. Or, at least the opportunity to.

Sorry, that was all a bit more jumbled than it had to be - I hope you get the jist.

And now here's finally the connection to The Little Prince. This is just as the fox and the little prince's appreciation (taming) comes with investment, and the risk of losing to randomness and time.


The fox gazed at the little prince, for a long time.

"Please-- tame me!" he said.

"I want to, very much," the little prince replied. "But I have not much time. I have friends to discover, and a great many things to understand."

"One only understands the things that one tames," said the fox. "Men have no more time to understand anything. They buy things all ready made at the shops. But there is no shop anywhere where one can buy friendship, and so men have no friends any more. If you want a friend, tame me..."

"What must I do, to tame you?" asked the little prince.

"You must be very patient," replied the fox. "First you will sit down at a little distance from me-- like that-- in the grass. I shall look at you out of the corner of my eye, and you will say nothing. Words are the source of misunderstandings. But you will sit a little closer to me, every day..."

The next day the little prince came back.

"It would have been better to come back at the same hour," said the fox. "If, for example, you come at four o'clock in the afternoon, then at three o'clock I shall begin to be happy. I shall feel happier and happier as the hour advances. At four o'clock, I shall already be worrying and jumping about. I shall show you how happy I am! But if you come at just any time, I shall never know at what hour my heart is to be ready to greet you... One must observe the proper rites..."

"What is a rite?" asked the little prince.

"Those also are actions too often neglected," said the fox. "They are what make one day different from other days, one hour from other hours. There is a rite, for example, among my hunters. Every Thursday they dance with the village girls. So Thursday is a wonderful day for me! I can take a walk as far as the vineyards. But if the hunters danced at just any time, every day would be like every other day, and I should never have any vacation at all."

So the little prince tamed the fox. And when the hour of his departure drew near--

"Ah," said the fox, "I shall cry."

"It is your own fault," said the little prince. "I never wished you any sort of harm; but you wanted me to tame you..."

"Yes, that is so," said the fox.

"But now you are going to cry!" said the little prince.

"Yes, that is so," said the fox.

"Then it has done you no good at all!"

"It has done me good," said the fox, "because of the color of the wheat fields." And then he added:

"Go and look again at the roses. You will understand now that yours is unique in all the world. Then come back to say goodbye to me, and I will make you a present of a secret."

The little prince went away, to look again at the roses.

"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."

And the roses were very much embarrassed.

"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.

And he went back to meet the fox.

"Goodbye," he said.

"Goodbye," said the fox. "And now here is my secret, a very simple secret: It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye."

"What is essential is invisible to the eye," the little prince repeated, so that he would be sure to remember.

"It is the time you have wasted for your rose that makes your rose so important."

"It is the time I have wasted for my rose--" said the little prince, so that he would be sure to remember.

"Men have forgotten this truth," said the fox. "But you must not forget it. You become responsible, forever, for what you have tamed. You are responsible for your rose..."

"I am responsible for my rose," the little prince repeated, so that he would be sure to remember.


This is something really, really gorgeous. There is just so much in that short piece of text. This kind of book demands more time. The quote above (I can't integrate it into verse like Angela has...) was taken from here, and is only half of chapter 21. The children's book has 27 chapters, and such wonderful lessons.

What a great gift (to have been given and to give).

If you really want to read it online (hey, I did my first time), here's a cleaner, easier to read version than the one above.

Here's a little on the author's motivation and history. Actually, let's keep this simple and provide a link to Wikipedia. There are some interesting parallels within the author's life and the child's book... ;)

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