Fiction as self-help – The Little Prince

Every once in a while, I will share something from a work of fiction. Often, I am reading… going along… enjoying the story… when something jumps from the page and tugs at my heart. I will always title these “Fiction as self-help” so we can find them later.

For The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupery, a case could be made that the entire book is self-help-ish. The story is layered with truths… from what is important to the knowingness of children. And then there is the beauty of the writing… the simplicity… and the depth. I know it’s a contradiction. The book itself is one, as well.

I’d like to share one of my favorite passages: I have always loved the desert. One sits down on a desert sand dune, sees nothing, hears nothing. Yet through the silence something throbs, and gleams…

Perhaps it’s because I lived in the California desert for 15 years… but this really spoke to me… perhaps… not for the reasons you think.

See, I hated the desert. Hated. It. In the late 1980s, my family moved to the High Desert to get away from some particular women. I very rarely talk about this publicly, but my first husband had a 7-year itch. More than once. Twice at the same time. We moved to the desert… 50+ miles away from the women but also away from our families. He stayed with his parents during the week (so he could continue working) and came home on the weekends. Then, I miscarried our fourth child. It was early term, but my heart was broken. He came home and we were together to grieve as a family for the weekend. After that, it was just the kids and me again. But I couldn’t wallow. I had three small children to care for by myself, without a car, and in the god-forsaken desert. Hated. It.

So, why would I say I love the passage in the book? Because, afterwards… as I healed from the miscarriage and the marriage settled down and our children were growing up, I came to love the fresh air, the dry heat, and yes, the silence. In Southern California, there is no silence. Not anywhere. I had no idea how to sit in my pain and confusion but learned a lot by doing just that … by necessity.

The desert does throb (like a life-force) and gleams, too. Which reminds me… later, I’ll tell the story of a life-changing song I heard around this time. Be patient. 🙂

The Little Prince is filled with lessons to be learned… from learning to sit in the silence to finding out what is truly important … to loving something too much… and so much more.

If you haven’t read it in years — or, ever — I encourage you to pick it up. It’s the kind of fable that will teach you different things each time you open it. No wonder it’s a classic!

imagesThis post is dedicated to my friend Cathy.  It’s her favorite book. It always reminds me of her. And her father died today. My heart aches for her.    

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