Curiousity, Responsibility and “The Little Prince”

On ne voit bien qu’avec le coeur.  L’essentiel est invisible pour les yeux.”

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

From “The Little Prince”
by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

A few weeks ago on Twitter, the writer Susan Orlean started the topic #booksthatchangedmyworld.   The topic became hugely popular within seconds and is still active.  Mostly fiction titles were mentioned, although non-fiction books, such as, “Toxic Parents,” “The Joy of Cooking,” and “The Joy of Sex” were popular, too.

I added a few of my own, but the titles that came to my mind were children’s or young adult lit:  “Where the Wild Things Are” by Maurice Sendak and “Are You There, God? It’s Me, Margaret” by Judy Blume.

I could fill a few pages with a list of the books I love or books that affected me in a deep way, but the books that changed my life are mostly books I read when I was  young.

Today, I thought of a book that bridges the gap.  “The Little Prince” by  Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, is a children’s book that I read as an adult and it changed my life.

It was written as a children’s book, but its ideas of open-mindedness, curiosity, and exploration have a lot to teach adults who might have grown up and away from those child-like traits that keep the world new and exciting.

There are two parts that changed my world and have stayed with me since reading the book for the first time 15 years ago.  One is about our responsibility toward others.  The fox tells the Little Prince, who has fallen in love with a rose:

“Men have forgotten this truth, but you must not forget it. You become responsible for what you have tamed.  You are responsible for your rose.”

The second lesson is the quote at the beginning of this post.  It’s  the fox speaking to the Little Prince again.  “What is essential is invisible to the eye.

Reading that in the simplistic terms, the fox is saying the eye doesn’t see what matters most, it only sees what’s on the surface, but it goes beyond that.  It taught me that it’s important to dig deeper.  By examining, exploring, and questioning, I could learn what is essential to me, what matters most.  That lesson is something that changed my world in incalculable ways.

Happy birthday to Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, born June 29, 1900. The link is to his official website, which is in French.  Use Google Translate to translate it into any language. Très facile!

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9 thoughts on “Curiousity, Responsibility and “The Little Prince”

  1. Olivia, Le Petit Prince/The Little Prince is a treasure! I read it first in senior high school French classes; then I read it again in English. Those mentions you have made from the book have stayed with me as well.
    What a great honor to the author to be remembered so long for this small but mighty story.

  2. Isn’t it amazing how so few words can have such a profound impact? That’s what all we writers aspire to, and you’ve given us a perfect example Olivia. I love that quote, (will be adding it to my little quote book).

    I’m like you – I could probably create a whole book of the list of books that have changed my world. I have idolized Judy Bloom since reading “Deenie” in elementary school. The title alone, (which was so close to my name), is what drew me to it in the beginning, but when I read the story I was floored. It was like she had been watching my life, and decided to write it. After that I read every one of her children’s and YA books. I had to wait until moving away from home to read her adult novels, and found that I love them just as much.
    I could go on and on about the books I love. Maybe I’ll cheat on my rule of not posting blogs, (okay, alredy done that 🙂 ), and post one inspired by yours.

    Thanks for the heads up on the Twitter hash tag – I’ll definitely be checking that out.

    P.S. I must apologize for missing #Silentwriters last night. After dropping the boys off at camp Monday, and climbing the steep terrain in 98 degree heat, I was still beat last night and had to catch up on sleep. But I have been writing this week!

  3. Hi Olivia
    That was my favorite as a teenager and those two sentences resonated for many years and in many situations. Now from my perspective , some 30 years on, to me – seeing with the heart means feeling…and leaving the head the thinking, analyzing, judging it does so well…just noticed these words are in contrast to your “examining, exploring, and questioning,” mmmm
    thanks for reminding me of this priceless little book

  4. I love that you remember children’s books that changed you. I clearly recall reading Judy Blume and now find myself picking up whatever my kids are reading so that I can stay current with them. Great post Olivia.

  5. What a great post – Le Petit Prince shook my world up too… and Judy Blume, etc. Great post – if these are your writer-greats, I’m sure the novel will come out fine:)

  6. Glad to find you. Was looking for birthday themes for my son’s first and got my head wrapped around this book as the theme. But I’m also an aspiring writer so I am grateful to find you – will follow your sharings too for inspiration in that regard.
    Thanks – Ali

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