Saint-Exupéry book holds more lessons than Marx
Have you ever had some small event suddenly open a secret gateway in your soul for the flow of deep and hidden memories?
It happened to me a few days ago. After dinner in a stylish restaurant in the small town of Ely, Minnesota, we received our bill. It was in a small, black, leather notebook with a pencil attached. When we opened it, we saw not only our tab, but several pages of quotations from famous people. You could add your own quote if you were inspired to do so.
I could not help but read the quotes, one after another. The first was from Karl Marx.
“Workers of the world, unite!”
The last one, was written in French and English, and it was from Antoine de Saint-Exupéry. It read: “It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye.”
These two authors played such different and opposite roles in my life. My memories of thirty years ago came into sharp focus.
An obligatory subject for every student in any university in the Soviet Union was the study of the Foundations of Scientific Communism and the works of Marx and Lenin.
For me, that meant 300 classroom hours on these subjects over four years of study. I remember sitting endlessly in the reading room of the library, because books by philosophers and revolutionary politicians were not to be taken home.
I reread the pages under the lifeless light of fluorescent lamps and thought wearily, “What is the most essential thing to understand?”
I was looking for some deep and inspiring meaning but could never find it. These men wanted to change the whole world for the better, but having read a thousand pages, I remained deaf to their calls for change. They sought to rework the entire world and make everyone equal. Yet nothing they wrote could touch me.
Then, after struggling with these thick volumes, I reread a slender novel with the unlikely title, The Little Prince.
It was written by Saint-Exupéry, a french pilot who disappeared over the Mediterranean Sea in the Second World War.
The story is of a downed aviator in the Sahara who encounters a young boy, who claims he is from another planet. During the eight days it takes the pilot to repair his plane in this harsh and empty wilderness, the Little Prince recounts stories from his life that hold deep lessons on love, beauty, friendship, and how to live to the fullest.
There are said to be over 140 million copies in many different languages, making it one of the most cherished stories of all time. As a young woman, the words of the Little Prince “it is only with the heart that one can see rightly” were more powerful to me than all the instructions of Karl Marx and Lenin combined.
I gazed at the little black notebook. I thought how Soviet communism collapsed in failure, yet de Saint-Exupéry’s message of love is as powerful now as ever.
Nina London is a certified wellness and weight-management coach. Her mission is to support and inspire mature women to make positive changes in their body and mind. Share your inspirational stories with her at www.ninalondon.com
Roland Skinner (1940-2018)
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