Passages – de Saint-Exupery


Every once in a while, I like to reflect on various passages from authors who have influenced me.

I learned one of my favorite passages in French. I was in high school, maybe a junior. Probably 16 years old. I’d been taking French since I was a freshman and in French III, I’d reached a level where we spoke zero anglais in the classroom.

And, side note: I found that my grasp of English grammar improved immeasurably after taking French. That’s because French is a language of rules, while English is a language of exceptions. So, if you really want to get a grasp on our crazy, fluctuating American grammar rules, try learning another language.

Anyway, back to Francais Trois

We were assigned to read Le Petit Prince, by Antoine de Saint-Exupery. I’ll admit that I looked at it and thought, “Holy merde, why are we reading a children’s book?”Littleprince.JPG

As I eventually discovered, it’s not really a children’s book, despite the cartoonish watercolor illustration on the cover. (also created by Monsieur de Saint-Exupery) It’s a poetic novella that focuses on themes of peace, childhood innocence, and the foolishness of materialistic adults.

My favorite passage is this:

“On ne voit bien qu’avec le couer. L’essentiel est invisible pour les yeux.” 

In case you don’t speak francais, I’ll translate:

“One sees clearly only with the heart. What’s important is invisible to the eyes.”

I loved this passage then and I still love it now. In fact, after my first year of college, I was fortunate enough to visit Paris, and I bought myself an old, raggedy copy of Le Petit Prince from one of the bouquinistes along the Seine. I already had my French copy from school, as well as an English version. This third book went on display on my bookshelf, to remind me of this specific passage.

I memorized this passage in French and in English and try to call it to mind when I find myself getting too focused on the superficial. We are caught up in appearances, more often than not. We think we should look, act, or think a certain way. But we forget to listen to our hearts.

And if you ask me, that’s the best vehicle for looking at anything. Challenge yourself to go beyond the surface. Step back. Dig deeper. See with your heart and then see where you end up.

What are your favorite passages?