Sunday Morning ~ Boston
June 3, 2018
Our only true life is in the future. We shall take part in it as handfuls of dust and splinters of bone. But how far away that future may be there is no way of knowing. It might be a thousand years. At present nothing is possible except to extend the area of sanity little by little.
I’m reading Nineteen Eighty-Four. My bookmark is a photo of my granddaughter dressed in her ballet recital costume, hands on her hips, ankles crossed, smiling hard. I read the above passage and looked at the bookmark. I read it a few more times, then checked again to see when the book was published. Copyright 1949. It’s fiction, of course.
On the way back from Savannah I stay a few days in New York. Jake and I walked a million miles around Brooklyn, talking about various topics. The Little Prince came up. He asked me what it really was about? Why do people get obsessed with that book? The illustrations are cute and lots of people love it, was my contribution to that discussion. I’d read it in my French class with Mr. Chibaro in 1973. I fancied myself quite the scholar at age seventeen reading a book in French. I understood the vocabulary, but philosophically, I didn’t get it. All I remembered about the book was the Baobabs and Boa Constrictors. I don’t even remember being curious about what it all meant. I was focused on impressing my French teacher and figured I’d do that with definitions and pronunciation, I guess. Then during my psych rotation in nursing school, we were assigned to read The Little Prince. I’d decided, rather arrogantly, that I’d already read it in it’s original French so didn’t need to re-read it in English. When I think back on that I am astounded at my effrontery. So I found myself wishing I knew more about it. I’d gotten so discouraged listening to the news since being in the states that I thought the book might unlock some secret to a sane universe. I decided to read it in English. Orwell was scaring me. I thought Saint-Exupéry might make me feel better.
When I got back to my daughter’s house I was looking for a book to read to the kids and found The Little Prince on the shelf. I thought I could read it to them and kill two birds with one stone! But at age four and two, it didn’t move fast enough and they wanted something with a little more zip and a little less text. It’s not really a kid’s book. It’s an adult book with kid’s illustrations. So later that night I took it to bed and read it to myself. I felt badly about not reading it when I did my psych nursing. Not because I would have done better in the class, but because looking back, I was being an idiot. I thought I could fake it.
When I finished the book last night, which only took an hour (really, would it have killed me to read it for my psych class?) I thought I’d be able to text Jake some pithy comment about what the real meaning of the book was. I haven’t done that because I still don’t know after reading it. Acceptance of peoples’ differences? Sensitivity to other’s ways of viewing the world? Those are the obvious lessons. It’s fiction, of course.