Sunday, May 11, 2008

Random thoughts on St. Exupery

Every once in awhile, I treat myself to a Saint Exupery book. I don't do it often.

Saint Exupery isn't an easy read. It kind of bothered me when the Little Prince became required reading--like the thoughts Saint-Ex had are easily dissected by school kids looking for theme.

A few years back, I read Wind, Sand and Stars, and when I see people, hurrying through their lives--stopped at the Sounder station, or rat-packed in traffic, I look at their faces and think of the dismal prison in which they locked themselves up. Where they like termites, built their peace by chinking up every nook and cranny through which the light might slip.

Petty bourgeois of Toulouse. Nobody grasped you by the shoulder while there was still time. Now the clay of which you were shaped has dried and hardened, and naught in you will ever awaken the sleeping musician, the poet, the astronomer that possibly inhabited you in the beginning.

He's pretty deep.

I guess...

...because he resonates.

When we are children--the world spreads like a dessert buffet. Every choice a dish you can try--a little here, a little there, until you find the one you want to eat forever. Some people don't try anything--accepting as they do, carob for the rest of their lives. Carob is all they ever eat. They wall themselves off from the possibility of chocolate because everyone knows chocolate is bad, and only people with control issues eat it.

We send our children to school to do more, to be more--to live on their own with good jobs and forget that sometimes--good jobs are the mud to block the light. You need to eat, but you have to leave room for chocolate.

Today, I read Flight to Arras. It cost a penny on Amazon, and was a penny well spent.

He spent a lot of time thinking--while his plane was flying through German bombs over the burning French countryside. Of his country men, and shrapnel--and how easily a country of sophisticated people became refugees dying in the advance of the German army.

And he realized--our body is not us. Our body is just the shell to contain the action, and in the end--when all is said and done--the action is what we are. That mother who choose to die with her daughter, that brother who died so his sister could escape, were not brother and mother, but people who realized at the end, your body belongs to you--but it is not you.

It is an everyday fact. It is a common truth. But a fact and truth hidden under the veneer of our everyday illusion. Dressing and fretting over the fate that might befall my body, it was impossible to see I was fretting over something absurd. But in the instant in which you give up your body you learn how little store you set by your body.

It would be foolish to deny that during all the years of my life when nothing insistent was prompting me, when the meaning of my existence was not at stake, it was impossible to conceive anything might be so important as my body. But here in this plane, I say to my body, "I don't care a button what becomes of you. There is no hope of surviving this, yet I lack for nothing. I reject all that I have been up to this very instant. For in the past, it was not I who thought, not I who felt; it was you, my body. One way and another, I have dragged you through life to this point, and here I discover that you are of no importance."

--I have never known a man to think of himself when dying. Never.

Stuff to think on. Stuff to percolate around and ferment, so one day when I'm faced with death, I'll think--man is just a knot in relationships. And only those relationships matter. There is no death when you meet death. Because at the end, we don't think of ourselves, we think of others.


Unhinged said...

Wow. I have no words for how this post affected me. But it's beautiful.

I must star-ith it.

jodi said...

Saint-Ex is always cool. He thought great thoughts, just like in the Little Prince. It's a pity he didn't survive the war.

Miss Mae said...

This is so very deep, Jodi, and poignant. And true too, I think. When my dad died in his and Mom's bedroom, I know his last thoughts were of leaving her behind. He didn't fear death as he'd already been DOA at the hospital a couple of years before, but they revived him. He'd always said afterwards he wished they hadn't. "It didn't hurt to die," he said, "but it hurt like hell for them to bring me back to life." So that fateful morning, March 11, 1996, after he'd bled all night from a hemorrhaging stomach ulcer, he collapsed on a chair at the foot of the bed. Mom, realizing the situation and the man with whom she'd spent 46 years, couldn't bear to be left behind. She begged him not to leave her and though too weak to answer, tears formed at the corners of his eyes. And this time when the ambulance arrived, they couldn't revive him. When my mom passed away during the early morning hours on April 11, 1996, I know her last thoughts were of him.


jodi said...

Mae--that's really sad, but at least your parents are together again. And you know it's what they wanted. Not to be morbid, but I have a double headstone. There's a lot to do, but when it'd done, I know where I'm going...

Alice Audrey said...

Seeing the uselessness of the body after you're done with it is all fine and well, but the body is still worth worrying about in the meanwhile. Maybe it isn't the most important thing, but it is the focal point of all your interactions on the physical plane, and as such must be cared for and treated with due respect. Can you brush your daughter's hair without a body? Can you sing your mother's praises? Yes, the threads of action binding one person to the next are far more important, and far more lasting. Yet still, if you intend to live beyond the next moment, better make sure your body will still be able to do all that you are likely to ask of it.