the little prince: a lesson in mindset and the human condition

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The little prince- a book and film I’ll never stop ranting about.

Chances are you’ve heard me to talk about this once or twice, and today I’m here to tell you why.

I first watched this film a couple of years ago, and I was instantly taken by it.

I honestly try to live my life by the lessons taught in this movie- that’s just how special it is to me.

The Little Prince, first published in 1943, is a novella by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, a french aristocrat, writer, poet and pioneering aviator.

I’ve only ever watched the film, surprisingly. I’ve seen the books a few times but never gotten around to buying a copy, but I hope to do that soon!

The Little Prince is philosophical, extraordinarily deep and beautiful, but most of all, humbling. There is an absolute wealth of knowledge to be taken away from the story.

Although referred to as a children’s story, I think this is more a story for adults- they are the main focus. Their behaviours, the way their minds have narrowed. The way they forget and see only the essential.

The movie begins with a piece from our narrator, the aviator. He speaks of his memory of childhood- he’d observe, then create through drawings that meant something to him, but nothing to the grown ups around him. To them it seemed like mere silliness. They never seemed to understand anything by themselves. So, he took their advice, and he grew up, until something miraculous happened.

He found someone, a child- to share the little Prince’s story with. Except this child was already like a grown up. The influence of her mother, a micro managing, busy perfectionist, had taught her that there was nothing good to come out of maintaining a childlike spirit. I guess I can relate to this part a lot. I’m a perfectionist myself and often lose sight of who I truly am because I try so hard to fit myself into tiny boxes. I have this debilitating desire to do and be everything, and surely that is a learned quality. I wouldn’t say this is because of anybody I know, but just because of the world in general.

This child befriends the aviator many years after his experience with the little Prince. He is young in spirit, although no longer in presence. His relationship is what changes the girl to see the world different and seek out the Little Prince in her own time. She reminds him of the truth and what he thinks he has forgotten. She places him in her life. And that is the lasting presence of the little Prince.

In the course of this life I have had a great many encounters with a great many people who have been concerned with matters of consequence. I have seen them intimately, close at hand, and that hasn’t much improved my opinion of them.

Perhaps, the disappointing thing about adults is not their having grown older, because this is an inevitability for all of us. Growing up often means changing our mindsets and living in the real world where, too often, greed and pride and other negative things shape us into different people who are ignorant to the truth. Adults are disappointing because their pursuits have taken on a disproportionate important. They are blinded by appearances and see people as statistics, religion as morality, education as a sign of functionality- all evidence that what can be experienced with the senses is vastly overvalued.

What would happen if we looked further, deeper, and seeked out our truths?

Here is my secret. It is very simple. It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye.

Our days are so filled with important things like jobs and school and work, but how much do they really teach us? There are lessons all around us just waiting to be learnt and they do not discriminate. Perhaps in ways children are smarter than adults, because we see what lies beyond responsibility and domestics.

We fail to see that there is much more than us- there are whole planets and stars and life beyond our existence, and somewhere amongst them, there is a unique rose brimming with humanity, a rose seeking love.

This rose is a representation of love, the way we tame each other and allow ourselves to be tamed. This invisible virtue is what makes this rose special, for outwardly she resembles a common rose indistinguishable in a field of flowers.

“People have forgotten this truth,” the fox said. “But you mustn’t forget it. You become responsible forever for what you’ve tamed. You’re responsible for your rose.”

In order to have a perfect love, we are required to reform ourselves and retreat to child like states. There is also talk of vulnerability- when we are tamed, when we form connections with somebody and mean something to them, we always run the risk of being hurt, and perhaps this is what is important. We are trusting someone else to not hurt us when there is a real possibility they may do so anyway. Maybe it is worth the risk because it is the only way we can see value in others instead of seeing them as objects.

The cost of not daring to love is to miss the point of our existence entirely. Each rose is unique through the sacrificial love it is given. This meaning spills over into the entirety of the world. If we see with the heart, enchantment follows in all that we encounter. It is all about what we can give, even if it doesn’t seem much.

It is in our nature to try and bring order to our world because it is the way we make sense of things. We shape creation. A drawing of a hat reveals a boa constrictor with an elephant inside. A box holds a sheep that lives forever. And even in the harsh climates of the desert where the aviator finds himself stranded, there is a secret.

“What makes the desert beautiful,” said the little prince, “is that somewhere it hides a well…”

In the story, the aviator crashes his plane into a desert- this is where he first encounters The Little Prince, who fled from his planet, travelling with a flock of birds. The aviator knows the desert is arid, inhospitable.. but does The Little Prince?

The aviator fears that he will die of exposure if he doesn’t fix his plane, so he gets to work, like any normal adult. Out of nowhere though, appears the Little Prince, who isn’t concerned with impending death and has very different views on it. The Little Prince shares his life story and chatters on- he wants the aviator to draw him a sheep that is just right. This sheep is just a source of curiosity for him. He then speaks of the extinct volcanoes on his home planet and the baobab trees that threaten to split his planet apart unless taken care of early on. This is symbolic of any bad habit- maybe those of all the utilitarian workers the aviator knows of. The business man and his obsession with counting sums. Getting rid of the baobabs is important, because it is of urgent necessity. When left alone, it has the power to destroy. After that, he speaks of the rose he left.

The Little Prince is not scared because he knows a secret. He knows that out there in the midst of the sunswept landscape there is a well. In that well is all the water they need. To him, the desert is not about the harsh realities of survival or what the eye can see. He doesn’t fixate on the relentless sun and the endless expanse—he sees the hidden well. The desert is a place of beauty because somewhere, somewhere hidden amongst the piles of sand there is a spring, and this hidden water in turn means beauty and life and love to the weary travellers.

And then there is the snake who meets the The Little Prince. He is the second of the instructors The Little Prince encountered, although unlike the wise and kind fox, the snake is like the angel of death. The little prince is a symbol of purity and innocence, but he is also somewhat human and possesses feelings of loneliness, from which the snake offers a quick escape. The snake, like the fox, is knowledgeable, but uses his power for evil. He is sly, but takes pity on the Prince, retreating from him.

The Little Prince does die, in some way, in some form, but it isn’t final. He makes plans with the snake who strikes him. He falls silently. He wants to return to his rose because he realises the importance of not abandoning those who are close to him. The aviator has similar feelings as he stays with The Little Prince in his last moments, offering him comfort and protection. The Little Prince reassures him that it may seem as if he is dying, but his body is an old, used shell and there is nothing sad about it- it does not reflect what is really happening.

The story ends with the narrator who realises many things- the relationship of the rose to The Little Prince and how his loving her made her existence important in the universe. He remembers his relationship with The Little Prince and tells readers to remember it too, should they go exploring. The implication is that relationships grow-they can go from being shared between two to being shared between many. This is what is most important to the aviator.

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