The smiling stars

If there was a book in my childhood that I hated with all my guts, that was The Little Prince. Time and time again, some adult would try to push it down my throat with the excuse that it was a beautiful book for children. No it wasn’t. It was obviously a book written for adults, not for children. I found it pretentious and utterly boring. Little witch Wanda or They come in all sizes, those were great books for children, I thought, but this one was fake and the pictures were a little creepy. I read it again as a teenager, same reaction. I never understood what people see in this book.

…until recently. I gave it another go and, suddenly, I saw it. I felt what people feel with this book and I realised how wonderful it is. It is a book about friendship and how our attitude towards our loved ones changes us inside. Not because of what comes in from the other person, but because of what is born in us towards them.

“Goodbye,” said the fox. “And now here is my secret, a very simple secret: It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye.”

Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, The Little Prince

I always thought this sentence was about love, but it isn’t. I now understand what it means, that what is essential cannot be seen with reason, but with the soul. Not with conscience and logic, but from the subconscious and with intuition. It is a beautiful irony that to be able to see truly one cannot use their eyes…

My favourite part, though, is the laughing stars at the end. I think the Little Prince was right: making someone our friend, making them special, special for us, making them exist in us… is not something we receive, it’s not something that happens to us. It is something we give, actively. Attention, time, care… love in its broadest sense. In a way it is an act of creation, a sort of magic, because that person (or animal or plant) starts to exist in us. It already existed, obviously, but not for us, not in us.

The stars having a personality because they are inhabited by someone who means something to us… A star is just a ball of fire up in the sky, isn’t it? It is what it is. Yes… but not for us. We project ourselves, we establish a bond with that star and not the others, and, by doing that, we ‘change’ the star. Reality, ‘things’ exist in themselves, but since we cannot assimilate the whole of it, only a part, what we see is ‘our’ reality, partially built of things as they are in themselves and partially built of our own projections. And so, of course we change the star, our reality of a star. It is the same star, except that it isn’t. Not for us.

I can see now that the people I met in my life, the people I was close to, contributed to my life. They left something in me that, although slowly, bloomed. It is difficult to know where we end and where their ‘gift’ starts. It is difficult to accept that letting someone in or giving away a part of us is a way of growing, not a way of dying. Where does each of us end and the others start? Where is the frontier, the limit? There are no islands if you swim deep enough. We are all bound, subconsciously. A series of common images, common places, common concepts that are the same for all of us. We are all one. Where is the limit? Probably in our ego conscience. An imaginary limit that gives us the false impression that we are a separate entity. Are we? Are we alive without the others? Do we exist without the others? When we defend ourselves from others, don’t we maybe reject what we are, what we also are? Aren’t I them? And if I don’t let anyone in, if I don’t exist in them… do I even exist?

They say that in the old days, the anchorites would live in isolation to find themselves, to find the Truth. But I’m not so sure one can find the Truth without the others. We can sail the world a hundred times in a yacht called Freedom, but in the end… in the end… we will come back. Not to a place, but to a someone. Because otherwise, we do not exist. We only exist in others. They acknowledge our existence. That is why when we leave a part of us in others we grow, we don’t die. Today’s stars are like yesterday’s, but not for us. Once we give them our magic, we change them. We transform them into something they previously weren’t. We give them life.

“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. And, besides, I am going to make you a present…”
[…]”All men have the stars, but they are not the same things for different people. For some, who are travellers, the stars are guides. For others they are no more than little lights in the sky. For others, who are scholars, they are problems. For my businessman they were wealth. But all these stars are silent. You− you alone− will have the stars as no one else has them”
“What are you trying to say?”
“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… you−only you− will have stars that can laugh!”

Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, The Little Prince

If you, like me, hated The Little Prince years ago, maybe it’s time to give it another chance. The baobabs grow inside you, somehow, and one day you will find that the stars smile for you too.