The Little Prince
Well, a couple days ago I finally got around to reading a children's book I randomly picked up at the library, <em>The Little Prince</em>. Little did I know this was an international hit, one of the 50 most popular books in the world with more than 50 million copies sold in over 160 languages!<sup><a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Little_Prince">1</a></sup> Apparently, this charming book by Antoine de Saint-Exupery, a French aviator, is quite the children's classic... and I had no clue! I put off reading it so long I had to renew my rental from the library, and I now having read it I think I should've read it five times during that time. :)
So, a little bit about the book itself... The story was inspired by an actual incident in Saint-Exupery's life when his plane went down in the Sahara. The main character of the book has himself had an engine failure and is right in the middle of fixing the plane before his water runs out when he meets the curious little prince. (There is a pretty funny introduction about the main character's childhood as well.)
The little prince is actually the owner of a small "planet" (<a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Little_Prince#Astronomy">asteroid B612</a>) and has come to Earth after visiting other small planets. On each of these planets he encounters adults who fill their days pursuing real "matters of consequence" but really thinking only of themselves. Only one of these adults gets sympathy from the little prince, because he is dedicated to his job as a lamp lighter on a world that has a two minute day... he works all the time to keep up with the fast pace of his world, and so he is frazzled and tired, but he is at least being dutiful instead of selfish. There are others driven by much lesser things... like vanity, pride, selfishness, and more. All in the pursuit of "matters of consequence." (You see I'm putting quotes around that. That must be a clue that this is a theme of the book. ;))
Anyways, the little prince eventually gets to Earth and talks about his planet and his prized possession (a flower he thought was unique in all the universe but is actually a common rose!) to a fox who gives him some advice as a parting gift... "What is essential is invisible to the eye." "It is the time you have wasted for your rose that makes your rose so important." "You become responsible, forever, for what you have tamed." These words, Saint-Exupery is saying through the words of the fox, lead us to real matters of consequence. It is not the busyness of our lives or the selfish dreams we pursue that really matter. These things are really insubstantial compared with things like love and devotion.
The book is a charming little children's tale, but the message is broadly applicable and indicative of Saint-Exupery's own philosophy. I believe his thoughts coincide with the Christian wordlview that teaches that it is the unseen that is consequential/eternal (2 Corinthians 4:18), the love of God and for one another that should be our primary pursuits. I really encourage you all to read this book, and I think I might just be buying a few copies for family members for Christmas. :D