I have always believed that learning knows no age. Every person who crosses our path has the power to teach us a valuable lesson or two if only we remain receptive and open to the learning process. A lot of adults around give me a quizzical expression when I tell them that grownups can learn so many things from children. Their sense of disbelief transports me to the pages of a book titled The Little Prince which charmingly illuminates the gap between children and grownups. It was quite by chance that I happened to stumble upon this particular book but it is one that I would recommend everyone to read.
Written by Antoine De Saint-Exupery (originally in French), the deceptively simple story of a pilot's encounter with a small boy from another planet actually offers a wealth of insight to an adult who chooses to pay attention to the hidden meanings behind the written text.
The narrator mentions how, with age, we seem to lose interest in what is really important in life. We are only interested in how things appear at the surface-level without bothering to dig beneath.
Recently, a friend and I were discussing how, as we grow old, we lose our sense of wonder. A friend of mine keeps getting exasperated at my childlike exclamations of "Wow!" each time I find something that fascinates me. I do not blame her. As we start ageing, the way in which we see the world changes. According to me, as we grow up, we stop engaging with the world. It's not that we cannot do it. We just choose not to.Not every individual is able to uphold the sense of amazement or of the sheer enjoyment of life. As we grow up, we lose sight of the endless possibilities that life has to offer which was so apparent to our younger selves. Wisdom may involve being more in command of our thoughts, faculties and desires but I believe that the very experience which helps us become successful threatens to limit our imagination and our sense of the possible.
As a child, it is acceptable to believe that anything and everything is possible. Setbacks in life make us more aware of our limitations. But what is wrong in being a dreamer? In The Little Prince, the author mentions how grownups are only interested in figures when, in fact, for those "who understand life, figures are a matter of indifference". He goes on to explain how grownups are never interested in asking "questions about essential matters" - for example, when their child makes a new friend, instead of wanting to know about his hobbies and interests, they are more interested in knowing his age and his father's income. I couldn't help but chuckle while reading that part - it reminded me of the time when I had been given the responsibility of selecting candidates for an interview based on the resumes they had mailed. I had found myself wondering, "How in the world can I possibly select five from this lot which appears to have the same amount of qualifications and experience?"
I love the way in which Saint-Exupery turns the tables in his book and actually makes the adults appear as the absurd ones instead of the children. Some may argue that my appreciation for this book stems from the self-satisfaction gained from the reasoning that I am not one of the unimaginative grownups scorned in the story but I firmly believe that The Little Prince will inspire people to shift their attention from pointless or self-centered ambitions to things that make our life more meaningful and worthwhile.
Below are some lines from the book that struck a chord. I hope they inspire you enough to read the book, The Little Prince:
- Only with the heart can one see rightly. What is essential is invisible to the eye.
- "What makes the desert beautiful," says the little prince, "is that somewhere it hides a well."
- "Then you shall judge yourself," the king answered. "That is the most difficult thing of all. It is much more difficult to judge oneself than to judge others. If you succeed in judging yourself rightly, then you are indeed a man of true wisdom."
- Language is the source of misunderstandings.
- I know a planet where there is a certain red-faced gentleman. He has never smelled a flower. He has never looked at a star. He has never done anything in his life but add up figures. And all day he says over and over again, "I am busy with matters of consequence!
- One only understands the things that one tames. Men have no more time to understanding anything. They buy things all ready made at the shops. But there is no shop anywhere where one can buy friendship.
- It is such a secret place, the land of tears.