Yesterday I did an event at a school about twenty minutes away from my house. I found out before the event that it was falling on the school’s “spirit day,” a day when students would be wearing their school colors of royal blue and white. In solidarity, I rummaged through my closet to find something to match the color scheme. I came up with my T-shirt featuring The Little Prince, a children’s story published by Antoine de Saint Exupéry in 1943.
Of course, once I was wearing the shirt I had to somehow work the book into my chat. I remembered that the thing that made me love The Little Prince when I discovered it as a child was the first chapter. In it, the main character talks about drawing an elephant that was eaten by a boa constrictor and having all the grown-ups that looked at it think it was a picture of a hat.
I was charmed by this idea, by the imagination of drawing an elephant inside a boa constrictor and about the disappointment of having it thought a hat. I had already begun to suspect that something vital had faded inside of a lot of the adults I knew: humor and honesty and a willingness to admit when they were wrong. That this grown-up author had somehow kept this secret childhood knowledge well into adulthood absolutely intrigued me. I didn’t know how he’d done it, but I wanted to to do it too. I wanted to be like the guy who’d written, as a grown-up, “Grown-ups never understand anything by themselves, and it is tiresome for children to be always and forever explaining things to them.”
I told the teens about my love of The Little Prince. A lot of them hadn’t read it, but I saw the look of recognition when I told them about that young person’s knowledge that somehow seems to fade in adulthood. We talk a lot about what we wish we’d known when we were kids, but we often forget the things we knew when we were kids that would really serve us well in adulthood but which we’ve allowed to be crowded out by “sensible” things.
Perhaps my favorite line from St. Exupery’s beautiful gem of a book is this one:
Here is my secret. It is very simple: It is only with the heart that one can see clearly; what is essential is invisible to the eye.
So grateful for the students of PCTI for helping me remember that.