What the Little Prince taught me
June 14, 2011 4 Comments
Once when I was six years old I saw a magnificent picture in a book, called True Stories from Nature, about the primeval forest. It was a picture of a boa constrictor in the act of swallowing an animal. Here is a copy of the drawing.
In the book it said: “Boa constrictors swallow their prey whole, without chewing it. After that they are not able to move, and they sleep through the six months that they need for digestion.”
I pondered deeply, then, over the adventures of the jungle. And after some work with a colored pencil I succeeded in making my first drawing. My Drawing Number One. It looked something like this:
I showed my masterpiece to the grown-ups, and asked them whether the drawing frightened them.
But they answered: “Frighten? Why should any one be frightened by a hat?”
My drawing was not a picture of a hat. It was a picture of a boa constrictor digesting an elephant. But since the grown-ups were not able to understand it, I made another drawing: I drew the inside of a boa constrictor, so that the grown-ups could see it clearly. They always need to have things explained. My Drawing Number Two looked like this:
The grown-ups’ response, this time, was to advise me to lay aside my drawings of boa constrictors, whether from the inside or the outside, and devote myself instead to geography, history, arithmetic, and grammar. That is why, at the age of six, I gave up what might have been a magnificent career as a painter. I had been disheartened by the failure of my Drawing Number One and my Drawing Number Two. Grown-ups never understand anything by themselves, and it is tiresome for children to be always and forever explaining things to them.
The above is taken from Chapter One of The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint Exupéry — one of two required readings in Humanities I during college. Why I chose 100 Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez that time, is beyond me. No disrespect to Mr. Marquez though, but I found renewed appreciation for Exupéry’s opus, and I can relate more to his little prince.
You see, like the Little Prince, I was doing alright when I was a kid. In my heart, I knew I’m gonna be an artist someday (you have to see my doodlings on our living room wall, and you’d exclaim: PICASSO!). As a child, everything was simple. Uncomplicated. Straightforward. I was content knowing what my five fingers are for:
Yeah, yeah… I was six! what do I know of relationships! All I knew was what my mom told me: That I have to marry well… and I saw my dad as a perfect example of “marrying well”… So, there! Drop the subject. That’s not the gist of this writing.
I have always prided myself to have continuously nourished my “child-like” attitude toward life… that situations (or problems), no matter how complicated, have a simple solution. In one way or another, however, adulthood has clouded some of my perspectives. I started contemplating about fall-back positions and alternative approaches on some very mundane circumstances. Take for example buying a bottle of soda: “Uhm… my throat is parched. I need an ice-cold bottle of soda.” Heading for the convenience store, I was wracking my brains with Diet? Zero? Light? 12oz? 500mL?
WTF!!! Since when did buying a drink become this complicated?
Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about careers — what path to follow, what to do when I hit 40. Of course, this is a massively problematic question, which I cannot delve into right now, but reading The Little Prince made me wish I was a kid again, for “Grown-ups never understand anything by themselves, and it is tiresome for children to be always and forever explaining things to them.”
Been in a similar boat?