"let your boat of life be light, packed with only
what you need - a homely home and simple pleasures, someone to love and someone to love you,
enough to eat and enough to wear
and a little more than enough to drink:
for thirst is a dangerous thing"

Thursday, 14 July 2011

lessons from a prince

The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry is a book that has been on my bookshelf for forever. I have bought many copies and given them away for gifts through the years and often pick up my battered copy and re-read a passage or two.  I, funnily enough, do not remember re-reading it in it's entirety.  It was published in 1943 and the pictures are simplistic but lovely. It has maybe perhaps lost a bit in translation but the messages are clear and although this book is recommended for children and is taught in France to beginners, it is more appropriate for adults.   It is one of the best selling books in history and it is the best selling French book with over 80 million copies sold.  It has been translated into more than 190 languages.  The author  recommended that his young readers dedicate his book to an adult (great idea) and it was pity that he died only a year after it was published.   

It is a fantasy story about a pilot, stranded in the desert, who meets a small boy from another planet. The boy (the Prince) is on a quest for knowledge. He asks questions and tells the pilot of life on his own very small planet.  It is a story of an adult who has almost forgotten what is important in life, the story of the pilot's reconnection to his own sense of childishness, wonder and imagination.

This posting actually has a theme so let me not get too sidetracked by the actual book except to ask you to read the extract below:-

"Good morning," said the little prince.
"Good morning," said the merchant.
This was a merchant who sold pills that had been invented to quench thirst. You need only swallow one pill a week, and you would feel no need of anything to drink.
"Why are you selling those?" asked the little prince.
"Because they save a tremendous amount of time," said the merchant. "Computations have been made by experts. With these pills, you save fifty-three minutes in every week."
"And what do I do with those fifty-three minutes?"
"Anything you like . . ."
"As for me," said the little prince to himself, "if I had fifty-three minutes to spend as I liked, I should walk at my leisure toward a spring of fresh water."

How great is that?

I could find lots of deeper meanings in this passage - imagine not being thirsty or drinking? Perhaps with the help of the magic pill I would not need to wake up so often during the night to go to the toilet and therefore sleep a whole lot better.  Off the track again, Jennifer.

Now for my story:-

For those of us (there are a quite a few of us Caroline, Gareth and Nic - I am not the only one) who listen to Cape Talk during the day (morning and evening for me) will know about the initiative on at the moment about Madiba's 93rd birthday on Monday.  Firstly at 8.05 on Monday the whole country is supposed to sing a new version of "Happy Birthday" to the great man (you can download the song to your phone for R1-00) on Monday morning.  You are also supposed to donate 67 minutes of your time to a good cause on Sunday.  Most days I am able to tolerate Aden Thomas but yesterday morning (I must be in serious need of a new hormone patch) I was highly irritated and an sms would have had too few characters to convey my point, so I headed for the computer to email him.  He was going on and on about doing something good for others for 67 minutes on Sunday. Every suggestion he made involved some charity or other. To quote Mr Thomas  "Go to www.greatergoodsa.co.za, its a time to give 67 minutes to make the world a better place, a time to reflect on what Madiba means to us, and a time to teach our children about this remarkable human being, a time to give of our time and put in some effort to a worthwhile charity, a time to let our actions speak rather than our words" (Shut up, Aden, practice what you preach!!) 

What about good old family values?  What about looking after those that are close to you?  Do you know how many people have their own family and friends who could do with 67 minutes of quality time from them but they would rather go and clean dirty cages, wash dirty penguins or buy clothes for an unknown baby than visit their ageing father, aunt or uncle in a frail care centre? 

Sorry I am finding it quite hard to get my real message across and now that I have re-read the bit above, I am coming across as negative and uncaring. This is because I am getting tired of being made to feel guilty when I don't give money to the blind man at the traffic lights or when I don't feel like giving the car guard another R5-00 for doing absolutely nothing for me (I don't know why but I would rather make an excuse about not having any cash on me than insult him by giving him only a rand or two).   Why do I find it less stressful parking at Cavendish Square and paying R10-00 (to Old Mutual) for parking than when you go and park at Palmyra Junction (supposedly for nothing) but then get badgered into giving the very pleasant faced car guard R5-00?  Feeling guilty I associate with not doing what you are supposed to do or doing something wrong.  Why should I be made to feel guilty when I have done nothing wrong except to shake my head?  Why do I say "sorry" when I am not guilty or sorry?  Maybe I need a therapist.
Okay, had my moan for the day and am feeling much better.

Back to The Little Prince and my stupidity.  At the lovely gift shop at Palmyra Junction (I should start walking there) called Caramel & Co., I bought a lovely stencil for my wall knowing that the quote came from The Little Prince.

 Caramel & Co.
 Carmel & Co.

I stuck the stencilled words up on my wall and was a bit confused as to where the semi-colon should go (I should have just looked in the book but the translation is different).   Now while looking online for pictures from the book, I found the poster below:-

I have stuck it up on my wall and it reads as follows:-

It is only with the heart that one can rightly see what is essential is invisible to the eye.

Not too bad, I suppose, basically the same thing.  One sees clearly only with the heart. The essential is invisible to the eyes.
Now I probably need to open up my heart a bit more before Sunday and if I had fifty-three minutes to spend as I liked, I too should walk at my leisure toward a spring of fresh water.  But, I ask "What about the other 14 minutes?"  Anyone want to join me?

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