Admittedly I’ve taken a big step back from the ‘online social scene’ (this blog, Facebook, & twitter) in order to just take a break and think about everything that’s been happening around me.
A lot has happened or is happening and its had me confused over what to do next or what I want most. So in this post, the risk I’m going to take is to try and explain by using a passage from a well known story, “The Little Prince” by Antoine De Saint-Exupery (which I recently re-read last Friday) to help contextualize what just ‘it is’ I’ve been struggling with lately. I hope in reading this, perhaps you can also identify with these characters as I do.
The following passage is a dialog between the ‘little prince’ and ‘a fox.’ The passage, even though written in World War II, tells a lot about the perceived thinking of young people (‘The Little Prince[s]‘) my age (mid 20′s) and how I (in this case ‘the fox’) sometimes feel amongst some of them.
So here it goes…
(*Note– This passage is abbreviated as indicated by these symbols [...])
“…It was then that the fox appeared.
‘Good morning,’ said the fox.
‘Good morning,’ the little prince responded politely [...]
‘Who are you?’ asked the little prince[...]
‘I am a fox,’ the fox said.
‘Come and play with me,’ proposed the little prince.
‘I cannot play with you,’ the fox said. ‘I am not tamed.’[...]
‘What does that mean – “tame”?’[...]
‘It is an act too often neglected,’ said the fox. ‘It means to establish ties.’
‘”To establish ties”?’
‘Just that,’ said the fox. ‘To me, you are still nothing more than a little boy who is just like a hundred thousand other little boys. And I have no need of you. And you, on your part, have no need of me. To you, I am nothing more than a fox like a hundred thousand other foxes. But if you tame me, then we shall need each other. To me, you will be unique in all the world. To you, I shall be unique in all the world…’[...]
‘My life is very monotonous,’ he [the fox] said. ‘I hunt chickens; men hunt me. All the chickens are just alike and all men are just alike. And, in consequence, I am a little bored. But if you tame me, it will be as if the sun came to shine on my life. I shall know the sound of a step that will be different from all the others. Other steps send me hurrying back underneath the ground. Yours will call me, like music, out of my burrow. And then look: you see the grain-fields down yonder? I do not eat bread. Wheat is of no use to me. The wheat fields have nothing to say to me. And that is sad. But you have hair that is the colour of gold. Think how wonderful that will be when you have tamed me! The grain, which is also golden, will bring me back the thought of you. And I shall love to listen to the wind in the wheat …’
The fox gazed at the little prince, for a long time.
‘Please – tame me!’ he said.
‘I want to, very much,’ the little prince replied, ‘But I have not much time. I have friends to discover, and a great many things to understand.’
‘One only understands the things that one tames,’ said the fox. ‘Men have no more time to understand anything. they buy things all ready made at the shops. But there is no shop anywhere where one can buy friendship, and so men have no friends any more. If you want a friend, tame me …’”
(*Emphasis added by me)
<later on the fox teaches the little prince how to tame it>
Here, the point is that the fox wants to be tamed by the little prince, which is a different concept then to have a relationship with the little prince. The fox understands the little prince will move on someday, and so doesn’t demand the prince to stay with the fox forever– rather the fox wants something unique– the fox wants to have some meaning to his environment. The fox wants to have new ties between his average life to something unique like the memory of a friend who took time to tame him.
As time is a precious thing, investing time in something with little tangible reward is difficult nowadays to understand. What is easier to understand is to invest one’s time in something that either has a great tangible reward, or several rewards over time and/or of different types (something that’s multi-goal centric). As the prince said, he “had not much time and he had friends to discover, and a great many things to understand.”
In each of our lives there’s times when we believe a relationship is the only thing to pursue, and what is truly most important. However, as this passage shows, there is something equally as important– what the fox calls “taming”. An act that meant to ‘establish ties’ with somebody else and as a result will make somebody feel special and unique, even though the person taming might not make a great effort in living with the subject, changing one’s career goals in order to relate better towards the subject, or sacrificing one’s future for a life with the subject.
We get mixed up over feeling that A.) in order to have long-term meaningful time with someone else or to impact someone’s life we must be “in a relationship” with that person; and B.) that to have this relationship means we would need to sacrifice nearly everything for it. We forget that any time we spend or have spent with someone is meaningful and that spending time taming one another (in the sense of ‘establishing ties’) is more then just an alternative to a relationship, but likely just as necessary to our mental well-being (as probably well as to the foxes we meet on a day to day basis.)