Let’s get back to where we started on this journey with The Little Prince; of course I mean, adulting. That’s right, it is time to have a look at those six adults the little prince came across as he moved from planet to planet, before landing on Earth.
Each adult incarnates some of the most common vices and scourges we narrow-minded and self-absorbed adults can convey. The six adults he encounters on his travels are:
- The king with no subjects
- The narcissist seeking praise and admiration
- The drunkard who drinks to forget his shame in drinking
- The materialistic and greedy businessman
- The lamplighter wasting his life blindly following orders
- The geographer who has never been to any of the places he records
In these 6 adults we find our worst traits; megalomania, narcissism and vanity, addiction and vice, materialism and greed, conformity and resignation, complacency and fear and sedentariness. All these characterizations are presented in stark contrast to the open-minded and receptive mind of the child within us each; represented in the character of the little prince.
A Hard Truth
I was reminded of a quote as I reflected on these adult traits. Actually, more a saying that has been attributed incorrectly to Winston Churchill, (more appropriately attributed to Unknown):
“When you’re 20 you care what everyone thinks, when you’re 40 you stop caring what everyone thinks, when you’re 60 you realize no one was ever thinking about you in the first place. You have enemies? Good. That means you stood up for something, sometime in your life.”
I always liked this saying because it reminds us of our own narcissistic and parochial ways. However, it can also reflect growth as we age and mature. Our perspectives can change and mellow us into a more agreeable and open-minded wisdom.
I remember being told once, that four months after you leave a job or position that you are forgotten; and that it is better to move on. I recall also that it is best not to try to go back because it only makes it uncomfortable for yourself and those incumbent in the roles and positions you left.
So, no one really gives much thought to you. True, I suppose, unless of course they are friends (or enemies). Humility is part of gaining wisdom, and means understanding that we are not owed anything, are not special, and that life is not fair; especially as time separates you further from those positions, roles, and relationships that we covet to validate our status and importance.
A Softer (And More Important) Truth
This does, however, provide for an understanding of the importance of those relationships for whom you are remembered and thought of, cared for and loved. That is, your family, and at least some of your friends; the close ones anyway. It also provides import to the moments and memories, and the growth and maturity you gain from those relationships, and shared experiences. Whether that growth comes via personal reflection and exploration, or through collective trial, or from an innate state of being present, it is comforting to know that any loss, or gain, reflection or fear, sadness or joy, or dilution of that childlike openness, awe and wonder can at least provide us some grace and peace through humility as we age.
The little prince held respect for only one of the adults he encountered before Earth, the lamplighter. The lamplighter, although blindly following orders, held, at least, a purpose outside himself. Still, he was consumed by his task and had no real existence external to it.
I’ve spent a lot of time considering my purpose and meaning in life – a never-ending journey. It got me thinking that maybe this pursuit of purpose may have become a distraction, one perhaps interfering with my ability to experience simple joy and childlike wonder with life. It is possible to think too much, to try to hard. A cost I am starting to feel, can be high.
It’s an important point to contemplate because when you have also thought on your own mortality and the fact that we could, each of us, die tomorrow, we have to also ask ourselves, “Have we really lived?” Did I live well? Did I allow myself to simply be, and to truly enjoy the little things? Or, did I let myself become complacent and resigned to life on another’s (societal, parental, narcissistic) terms? Have I become too consumed by the need to constantly define purpose and meaning?
Two great quotes to support this:
“There is only one meaning of life: the act of living itself.” – Erich Fromm
“Man is the only animal for whom his own existence is a problem which he has to solve.” – Erich Fromm
Where Is The Line?
From here I also found myself struggling with the lines between our responsibilities to others, to our communities and to society, and to ourselves. Especially the distinction between what we ‘owe’ to ourselves and what we ‘owe’ to others. When is a focus on ourselves a wholly selfish act, and when do we deny ourselves too much for others?
Which of the negative adult traits are exhibited when we place our responsibilities before our own happiness and joy, and vice versa? What, as the fox shares, is “essential” and “seen with the heart”, and what is it that we are forever responsible for; what have we “tamed”? Are they the same?
Two More Adults To Consider
There are days when I empathize with one of the people the prince encountered on Earth; the railway switchman. The switchman notes that people are constantly rushing from one place to another. Further, that they are never satisfied with where they are, and know not what they are after; that only the children among them ever bother to look out the windows.
Other days I feel like the other person the little prince meets on Earth, (aside from the aviator); the merchant. The merchant is selling a pill that eliminates the need to drink for a week, saving people 53 minutes. Why is everyone always looking for some shortcut, some way to get to leisure quicker. A leisure that will likely be wasted, not on exploration and adventure, but on distraction and sloth. It equates to a sedentary state, complacency, where life is no longer being ‘lived’. Rather, like in so many dystopian imaginings, where we allow ourselves to become slave to artificial realities and numbed existence – ‘Take your soma, and relax’.
I will leave you with this last point to consider:
Are you a hopelessly narrow-minded adult? Or do you have some of the child in you still? Are you capable of wisdom through open-mindedness and exploration – of the world around you and within yourself? Will you live, fully, or will you be dictated an existence and way of ‘living’, even if it means not living at all? Would you meet with the little prince’s approval?
I hope you can find, rekindle, or develop the ability to look at the world with childlike eyes and wonder, and allow yourself the simple joys inherent to life. I hope you see what is essential and meet with the prince’s approval. For myself, I have some work to do.
A Final Announcement
I am fundraising again for The Distinguished Gentleman’s Ride and their charity partner, Movember. Working to raise funds and awareness in the fight against prostate cancer, men’s mental health, and suicide prevention. The ride this year is on 23 May and I am asking that you considering sponsoring me again, in this most important of times. Below is an image – click it and let it take you straight to my personal donation page. I set a goal of $1000 USD, which we will be blowing past shortly, and now, with the support of Morning Owl Manotick again, I will be resetting a higher goal as we begin in earnest a month of fundraising to bring us to the day of the ride.