First let me tell you that in 1968 in order to complete my Bachelor of Education degree, I needed one last undergraduate class. I chose an introduction to Philosophy — Philosophy 101. It wasn’t exactly Philosophy for Dummies but it was a course that touched upon the well-known philosophers from Plato to Kant. I was young and found most of it exceedingly ponderous. (By that time in my education, I had decided that most so-called intellectuals were neither scholarly nor bright. I was a jaded twenty-year-old!) Then our professor added to the prescribed reading list the book, The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupery. I adored the book. It helped me change my mind about the course. It spoke to the larger concepts that the other philosophers were writing about but in the form of a timeless allegory about love and innocence. It spoke to my heart. It is about a prince from another planet who learned about life from the people and creatures he met on Earth.
By the time I got to this course, I was burnt-out. I had been taking classes without a break for three years. No summer break. No spring break… just the next class. I was trudging through my higher education. I wanted to be finished with it so I could get to the real work of changing the lives and hearts of teenagers. I had sailed through high school but my grades in University were disastrous; the only “A” I got in University was in Philosophy 101.My enthusiasm for the philosophy class had a great deal to do with the book. I hope you enjoy this excerpt from The Little Prince.
“‘To establish ties’?”“Just that,” said the fox. “To me, you are still nothing more than a little boy who is just like a hundred thousand other little boys. And I have no need of you. And you, on your part, have no need of me. To you, I am nothing more than a fox like a hundred thousand other foxes. But if you tame me, then we shall need each other. To me, you will be unique in all the world. To you, I shall be unique in all the world . . .”
“My life is very monotonous,” the fox said. “I hunt chickens; men hunt me. All the chickens are just alike, and all the men are just alike. And, in consequence, I am a little bored. But if you tame me, it will be as if the sun came to shine on my life. I shall know the sound of a step that will be different from all the others. Other steps send me hurrying back underneath the ground. Yours will call me, like music, out of my burrow. And then look: you see the grain-fields down yonder? I do not eat bread. Wheat is of no use to me. The wheat fields have nothing to say to me. And that is sad. But you have hair that is the color of gold. Think how wonderful that will be when you have tamed me! The grain, which is also golden, will bring me back the thought of you. And I shall love to listen to the wind in the wheat . . .”The fox gazed at the little prince, for a long time.
“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…
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:
“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.
Perhaps the solution to my spring fever is to find a friend that I can tame.According to Saint-Expurey, I will need to be patient. It will be much more important to be myself rather than to speak or do anything in particular. “Only with the heart can one see rightly. What is essential is invisible to the eye.”