Saturday, February 14, 2015

The Little Prince (For My Mother)

A banner adapted from, with a quote from the following piece: "Meaning something to even one star would keep me going."
For those of you who are unaware, The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry is a French existential tale in the guise of a children's book. The story highlights both the absurdity of adult life and the ultimate beauty and innocence of the universe in which we live. It relates the adventures of a Little Prince from Asteroid B-612 who travels to different planets, including Earth, in search of knowledge about the world around him.

I was going to publish this on my mother's birthday, February 6th, since the piece is dedicated to her. However, I missed the deadline and, well, better late than never, I suppose!

For my mother

The sixth planet that the Little Prince visited was inhabited by a schoolteacher with her hair all tied back in a bun, writing on a chalkboard in front of a row of empty school desks. “Excuse me, madam,” asked the Little Prince, “but what do you do here?”
I teach the stars to speak,” she said, “one million at a time.”
Ah!” said the Little Prince. “That is more useful than owning them or commanding them. What do they say, once you have taught them to speak?”
I have not yet finished teaching them,” she replied. “There are always more words for them to learn, and always a million more stars to teach.
But what do they say, once you have taught them?” repeated the Little Prince, who had never in his life given up on a question, once it had been asked.
First, they will repeat the words I say,” said the schoolteacher. “Then, they will find words of their own to reflect their thoughts. Then my job is done, and I must move on to the next million stars. I do not know what becomes of them.”
But if you never hear what the stars say once you have taught them, how do you know you have truly taught them well?”
The teacher sighed. “I do not know. When I first began to teach, I tried to reach out to each and every star, give them all the attention that they deserved. But there are so many millions, and all of them begin to seem the same. When they all seem the same, they all become just numbers, and I do not understand them anymore.”
Like the businessman,” thought the Little Prince aloud. “But you are doing good. You must mean a lot to the stars that you teach.”
Meaning something to even one star would keep me going,” said the schoolteacher. “Are you here to learn?”
Yes,” said the Little Prince. “That word that you have written there—what is it?”
It says ephemeral,” said the schoolteacher. “That means something that will fade away, or disappear, like a flower.”
Like a rose?”
But,” said the Little Prince, “if the rose were special...”
The schoolteacher crouched down to look into the Little Prince's eyes, which were beginning to brim with tears. “A very special rose indeed would not be ephemeral,” she said. “Even if if left you, or you left it, you can always find a way to keep it in your heart, and that will never fade.”
What is that way?” asked the Little Prince. “Can you teach me it?”
That you must learn on your own,” she replied. “Go to the planet Earth. It has a good reputation...”

And so the Little Prince flew away, thinking of his flower.

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