The Inessential and Mr. Fox

“One sees clearly only with the heart. The essential is invisible to the eye.” – The Fox

How have I missed reading The Little Prince? Up until now, it has not been on my radar at all. I watched the animated version on Netflix just last night. It was captivating. Not only is it beautifully animated, its observations on the human condition are profound.

This story reminds us that the daily essentials we have trapped ourselves in aren’t true at all, but the shell of truth. What is important is not what we see, it’s what we feel. That is where the truth lies. Children know this. Adults have forgotten it.

It is outside appearance that matters in the grown-up world. Love and beauty are seen as inessential and frivolous next to work and practicality. Sadly, work is considered more important than love. Don’t forget that the fact you were senior vice president of operations and worked late every evening won’t be mentioned at your funeral. The difference you made in people’s lives will be. It is possible to balance responsibility (the shell) and heart (the inner world of wonder and wisdom). In fact, it is necessary.

Am I the only one who has never seen the animated movie or read the book? In case you missed it too, here’s a synopsis of the movie The Little Prince based on Antoine Saint-Exupéry’s classic children’s story (I have yet to read the book):

The movie opens with a little girl who is old for her age and entrenched in the serious and sensible world of grown-ups. She is introduced to the eccentric guy next door when a paper airplane made of the first page of The Little Prince lands on her desk. Reading it piques her interest and she begins secretly spending her days with the colorful old man, dreaming, imagining, playing, and listening to stories about the little prince.

Already you understand the central theme. The tiresome grey world of adulthood has taken over the wonder and leisure of childhood, focusing on the adult version of what is essential. Seriousness and responsibility are valued over wonder and creativity. For an adult, reality is solid and lacks possibility. For a child-like mind, reality is fluid.

The stories told by the old man follow his experience as a younger man who crashes his airplane in a remote area of the Sahara desert. There he meets a mysterious little boy who tells a tale of his tiny planet. He tells about weeding his planet of Baobab trees and needing a friend. He fell in love with an extraordinary rose who also loved him, but since neither knew how to show love, neither knew of the other’s feelings. His desire to see the rest of the universe and find a friend gets the best of him. So he takes off to visit other planets, leaving his rose alone on the asteroid.

The little prince visits 10 planets on his journey. Each one is occupied by a stodgy adult performing boring occupations that are serious, sensible, and ridiculous. The characters include a king with no subjects, a conceited man, and a businessman whose sole purpose is to count the stars in order to own them. The prince continues on his journey eventually landing on Earth. Growing more disappointed by the minute, sure the whole universe has forgotten about friendship and how to be a child, the dejected prince sits down in the grass and begins to cry. This is when the fox appears. The boy tames the fox and then he has a friend.

It is the fox I liked best because of his commentary on listening with your heart and how that is the most important thing of all. The little prince, while playing with the fox one day, discovers a large group of roses. He is very disappointed to learn that his beloved rose, who he thought was special, is just a common rose after all. The fox is quick to explain that: Of course, his rose is not a common rose. His rose is special because it is his rose.

“It is the time that you have devoted to her that makes your rose so important.” – The Fox

The prince decides to return home to his rose. Of course, the fox is very sad to see him go, but tells the prince, “It is only with the heart that one can see rightly.” Meaning, what we see isn’t what is important. It is what we feel that matters. Because the boy and the fox were friends, they would live on in each other’s hearts and neither would ever be lonely.

The little prince heads back to the desert to allow a snake to take him home. (Where of course he meets the man.) The man realizes that, although the boy is very special, what he can see is nothing but a shell. What is most important is invisible. That night the man fixes his plane. He finds the prince talking to the snake. The prince warns the man that if it seems as though he had died to understand that it is just because his body was too heavy to take all the way back to his own planet.

“The men where you live grow thousands of roses but they do not find what they are looking for. What they are looking for could be found in a single rose or a little water.” – The Little Prince on finding happiness.

The little girl in the movie is very disappointed that the old man let the boy go with the snake. He explains that he has only to look at the stars to know the prince was there. And on a good day, he can even hear the prince laughing. She doesn’t buy it and runs out on him, returning to her grey, grown-up world.

The next day the old man falls ill and is taken to the hospital. Feeling terrible about treating him so badly, she sneaks out later in order to find the prince so he can help the old man. Whether she fell and bumped her head or whether the following is true is up for debate.

With the help of a stuffed fox, she starts the old man’s airplane and heads to the stars. Ending up in a city, she meets all the characters from the little prince’s adventures on the boring adult planets one by one. Then she finds the little prince, not on his home planet at all, but working in a boring grown-up job subjected to the daily grind and greyness. Like all the other adults he has forgotten about childhood and what is really important. So the little girl reminds him of the stars, his planet, and his rose. When he remembers, they work together to set things right. In this way, the little girl learns how to balance her grown-up responsibilities with her child-like mind. She says, “I will grow up, but I will not be a grown-up like you.”

 

“Growing up isn’t the problem. Forgetting is.” – The Aviator

So, I say again. My intention for this year is to have a childlike mind. Hopefully, that will influence a childlike heart as well. Possibility, beauty, and the inessential have value. There is beauty in the stark desert because of the possibility of water. The stars are beautiful because of the possibility they hold. An old man is happy because of the possibility of getting his airplane fixed, not the inevitability of death. What we hold dear will always be with us because it is what we feel that matters, not what we see. Love and beauty and adventure are valuable and important.

We try to teach our children the value of growing up, saving money, learning responsibility, and being on time. “Hurry up!” we say. Stop dilly-dallying. Focus! Are we so afraid of the world that we must prepare our children so rigidly? Maybe if we paused a bit in our terribly rushed day we might be open to learning about heart and possibility from them. When we see the color, our terribly grey world isn’t so frightful. Because “It is only with the heart that we can see rightly.”

Get your copy of The Little Prince.

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4 thoughts on “The Inessential and Mr. Fox

Add yours

  1. The Little Prince is one of my all time favorites! I have chills reading the quotations 🙂 There’s so much wisdom in this little book and you grasped the essence of is so well. Love how practically you translate seemingly complicated things to everyday life!

    Liked by 1 person

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