“The most beautiful thing in the world cannot be seen nor even touched, but just felt in the heart”- that was the script printed on a lovely landscape displayed on the wall of my aunt’s living room. The first time I happened to read the line, I was seven years old then, surprisingly I felt what the author, Helen Keller, meant by it. Yes, I felt it; I did not understand it though. For I was not born in an English-speaking environment, to be honest I did not know what the line was all about. The whole line was merely like “this side up” or “don’t accept if seal is broken” printed on the small and large boxes I used to build playhouses before. I didn’t get it at all. I could have asked somebody what it meant. But I did not bother. I felt I should not.
I have memorized the quotation since then. Remembering it was easier than recognizing which was the subtrahend or the minuend, and faster than pointing where was east and where was west. It became my automatic answer when asked of my favorite motto (I did not know then what a motto was) either during our class discussions in GMRC or in my classmates’ slum books. And nobody dared to ask for an explanation as to why I have chosen it. If someone did (my grade one teacher should have), I would have answered “because I feel I like it”.
Knowledge occurred to me in the later part of my grade school years. I was not sure though how it happened. It might be due to my continuous learning process or to the necessity that it was time I should know it. Or it could be both. What I could vividly remember was, when someone would ask me what the most beautiful thing is then, without a second thought or batting my eyes I would retort with certainty and conviction, “Love”.
As years went by, when I was through with six years of GMRC and four years of Values Education in high school and when I was old enough to answer slum books, somehow the thought of my favorite quote vanished. But I am quite sure though that it was just there-in my heart, like those forgotten Power Rangers mini robots I used to play everyday, then kept in one of the many boxes in our storage room- hidden but ready to be my playmates again if I would want to. I almost forgot about the beautiful line until one day when an old book a friend loaned me, brought it back to a certain chamber in my mind where only freshest memories linger. And since then, I am certain that nothing deserves to contain it anymore (nor any of the boxes in our bodega) but my heart and my mind.
“It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; for what is essential is invisible to the eye,” said the fox to the Little Prince in that book written by Antoine de Saint-Exupery. At the very moment I read it, I became the Little Prince immediately. Something in my heart more than my mind could understand was awakened. It was like coming home after years of living in strangeness. I felt lighter, smaller, and happier. I felt I wanted to laugh like no one would be bothered, play in the rain without fearing the illness I might catch, and climb the loftiest trees unafraid of falling. I felt worry-free. When I finally flipped the last page of the book, I felt it; the kid in me was revived.
The story, which was a sort of a fable (for there are talking animals), tackles about the very colorful journey to the earth of an extra-terrestrial being who calls himself, The Little Prince, in search for a sheep who could save his planet from the baobabs (trees that grow really big and tall, more than enough to destroy a planet so small like The Little Princes’). The decision to go away is tough because he had to leave behind his three volcanoes, (one of them was not active and all reach up to his knees) and more importantly his flower- a rose. He was worried about what might happen to her with just a few thorns to protect herself from the tiger or the caterpillars when they would attack her while he was far away. But he had to go. And he did.
Before the little man reached the Earth, he had gone to six other small planets. There he encountered strange grown-ups who somehow shared a common attitude. All of them are in different ways concern with matters of consequence. Something The Little Prince could not understand and enjoy- the reason why he stayed not so long in any of those lands. Besides he had to find a sheep.
The seventh planet he landed was the Earth where he met the story’s narrator, a pilot whose plane crashed in a desert in Africa. This encounter had caused wonder to the man’s life (like what happened to me when I have known The Little Prince). It was like he found the person he was looking for during the time when he used to draw boa constrictors from outside and inside, and grown-ups would think it was a hat. When they would laugh about it and would tell him to focus his attention to more important things. The Little Prince could be someone who would have appreciated his sketch. He could be the one who could have convinced him that his drawing meant more than it appeared.
For the short span of time the narrator had spent with The Little Prince, he had come to learn many things about him. The little man had described to him his small planet, including those in it- his flower and three volcanoes; told him about how he feared the possibility that baobabs might destroy it; and let him feel how badly he was in need of a sheep in order to prepare for the possibility (according to him sheep eat baobabs when they are yet small).
Though busy repairing his plane, he was able to draw him a sheep after a couple of tries, which indeed made the little man happy. It was not surprising that he had sketched a figure as equally as simple as the boa constrictor one he once did. And so as when The Little Prince was able to see beyond than what was visible- because he had not drawn a sheep at all. It was just a small box in which, he made the Little Prince believed, has the animal inside.
But for me the best part of the story happened before the Little Prince met the pilot. Before he had reached the desert, he encountered a fox. At first the animal was untamed, bored of spending each day of his life, hunting chicken and running away from men. Monotonous-as what he described it. But when The Little Prince came to tame this poor animal, things changed. He has something to look forward to aside from hunting chicken for food. He felt how good it is to have someone around who cares, who loves him.
On the other hand, The Little Prince at first was not able to recognize the value of this relationship, especially when the fox cried at the time of his departure came. He wouldn’t have tamed him if he would only know he’d cry at the end. But the fox taught him the most important lesson he had ever learn in his journey. “One runs the risk of weeping when he lets himself be tamed,” the animal told him. And it doesn’t matter if he’ll be left alone, what’s important for him is when the wheat field turns to gold, he would smile because he would remember The Little Prince for his hair is gold. It is not the sight of the golden field which would make him feel good, but the thought that it brings.
Furthermore, The Little Prince learned that when you care for and spend time with something, that certain thing would become different from all the others of its kind. Like the fox, he could be like any other foxes in the world, but since he had tamed him, spent time with him everyday, he had become his own. Like his rose. There can be millions of roses in the universe but his rose is unique for it was she he cared for, she who he loved. That makes her HIS rose. And that made him responsible for it, for them forever.
As one of the 50 best selling books of all time, the book captures the heart of its every reader and brings them back to the transition of their life they will always love to be- being a kid. Not all enjoy the courtroom drama Grisham writes; neither the stories about horses beautifully penned by Francis. A number adores the melodramatic scenes Sparks shows in his timeless books but a few readers find it cheesy that they prefer reading Clancy and experience how it feels to be in a war. But everyone knows, feels, and most enjoy being a kid because everyone has been a kid. Basically, all can read and relate to The Little Prince story. We laughed when this little fellow laughed even without reason sometimes and we weep with him, sympathizing how it feels to let go of something he loves and cares for. Like when we cry back then when someone took away our toys, when our little friends moved to another town and when we performed funeral services to our pets which died.
For about an hour I journeyed with The Little Prince, an hour being small, light and free, I realized a lot of things. I felt responsible for my rose (I know everyone of us has one). I felt the desire to tame more foxes that I may encounter along the way. I felt that somewhere in one of the desserts in Africa, there could be a stranded pilot who needs to hear my laugh to inspire him. And most importantly I learned how to see not through my eyes again.
Recently I have sketched and framed a replica of Antoine de Saint-Exupery’s drawing on one of the last leaves of The Little Prince book. Consisting of two crossing straight lines (which appear like a hill) and a star, it depicts the part of the desert where The Little Prince ascend from the earth to his planet in one of the stars. The narrator finds this the simplest and loveliest landscape in the world because beyond this simplicity, hides colorful thoughts, and beautiful memories only his heart can see.
At first I felt frustrated when my aunt found my landscape as childish when she first noticed it after I hang it on the wall in our living room. The feeling was worsened when my mother agreed to the notion and asked me to just take it off the wall. But I held it back, for I know grown-ups can’t see what kids see.