Thursday, May 19, 2011

NOÖ Knows Stories #11: Carolyn Zaikowski on The Little Prince

Carolyn Zaikowski's tattoo: "I believe that for his escape he took
advantage of the migration of a flock of wild birds."
I read The Little Prince about once a year. I did not read it when I was little; I read it for the first time when I was about fourteen (though as a wee one in the eighties, I do remember The Little Prince television cartoon, and thus I've always known the imagery of his planet, his wide pants, and his sad rose.) I read The Little Prince once a year to remember what I care about and how I want to live as a person in the world, a world where love, sadness, foxes, roses, tipplers, lonely kings, simple lamplighters, merchants who sell thirst-quenching pills, obsessive businessmen, egomaniacs, snakes, obligations, and friends exist. A world where nothing is permanent and everything, no matter how much we forget, is magical, totally beyond the limited understanding of our human minds.

I do not say these things lightly nor to invoke cliché. The Little Prince is not just a "cute" book to me, my love of it not just a quirky or fun part of my identity. Each year I wonder, is this the right year to give it to my nephew, himself a little prince? At what age will he finally understand, and what does understanding mean? Perhaps it's I, in my self-satisfied adulthood, who has fallen from wonder and needs to be reminded that a plain hat and an elephant being eaten by a snake are not the same thing? I keep it next to my bed in a small pile of crucial books that includes Gandhi's autobiography, S.N. Goenka's guide to Vipassana Meditation, the Bhagavad Gita, and an archive of Thich Nhat Hanh. When a friend of mine died, it was The Little Prince we read at her funeral: "And at night you will look up at the stars. Where I live everything is so small that I cannot show you where my star is to be found. It is better like that. My star will just be one of the stars, for you. And so you will love to watch all the stars in the heavens... they will all be your friends. In one of the stars I shall be living. In one of them I shall be laughing. And so it will be as if all the stars were laughing, when you look at the sky at night. And when your sorrow is comforted (time soothes all sorrows) you will be content that you have known me." In my dark moments, I think of this. I go out to the hill behind my house, alone, and I am reminded of the expanse—sad here, glorious there, but every inch of which proves the impossibility of aloneness. When Antoine de St. Exupery's plane, which crashed and killed him in 1944, was found in 2004, a rush of heat filled my esophagus and pulse and I felt humbled with wonder. It is so good to remember wonder. "Is the warfare between the sheep and flowers not important? Is this not of more consequence than a fat red-faced gentleman's sums?" There is a small group of indigenous people in Argentina who speak Toba, a language into which only two books have been translated in modern memory: The Bible and The Little Prince. There is a reason why. — Carolyn Zaikowski, editor of Dinosaur Bees

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

The wind blowing in the sun.

In the chirping
of a delicate
bird there's a
light that always
shines near
the sound of
a quietness, it's
the tender relief
now recalling
the youth.

Francesco Sinibaldi