Invisible to the Eye

In my younger days, the first audiobook I purchased was the Little Prince (Le Petit Prince) by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry. It was just a cassette tape. I was listening to it by my Sony Walkman decades ago. It is no longer with me.

Checking web articles, nowadays it seems there are arguments over English translations between Katherine Woods’ and Richard Howard’s. If I am not mistaken, the translation I listened was not by any of them, but by Jeff Mcneill.

Still, I can easily recall the following lines with a gentle male narration:

It is very simple: one sees only with the heart. What is essential is invisible to the eye.

Fortunately, Mcneill’s translation is in the public domain. We can read the whole text. I can cite many lines and pictures. On the other hand, the well-known quote is from Woods’ translation:

It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye.

Personally, the former has been embedded in my mind and soul ever since with a gentle male narration. What we listened repeatedly in our younger days always works this way. It’s so critical.

The Little Prince is a small book. It looks like written for children at a glance. But the message is for grown-ups. The author put his dedication as follows:

I apologize to the children for dedicating this book to a grown-up. I have a good excuse: this grown-up is the best friend I have in the world. I have another good excuse: this grown-up can understand everything, even children’s books. I have a third good excuse: this grown-up lives in France where he is hungry and cold. He needs to be comforted. If all these excuses are not enough, I will then dedicate this book to the child who became that grown-up. All grown-ups were first children. (But few of them remember it.)

So I correct my dedication:

To Leon Werth when he was a little boy.

This small book contains a series of enigmatic, witty, humorous, and beautiful anecdotes as the experiences of the little prince.

As mentioned, the key message is this:

It is very simple: one sees only with the heart. What is essential is invisible to the eye.

What is such invisible to the eye?

In the first scene, the author recalled his childhood experience when he was six years old. He drew his masterpiece, which was a boa constrictor digesting an elephant.

He showed it to the grown-ups. But they thought it was a hat. So, he drew an elephant inside this giant snake for them to understand what it is. He sighed, saying “grown-ups always required more explanation.”

In the author’s first encounter with the little prince, this small boy asked him repeatedly:

Draw me a sheep… 

It is another line I never forget. Somehow it reminds me of the three-repetitive expression of Jesus:

Feed my lambs (John 21:15)
Feed my sheep (John 21:16)
Feed my sheep (John 21:17)

The author drew several pieces of sheep for the little prince. But this little boy was not satisfied with any of them. Finally, the author drew a box in which sheep stay. Then, the little prince was so happy with this drawing of a box.

What is essential is invisible to the eye.

Another is the story about the rose. It is perhaps one of the anecdotes that I understood existentialism.

There was one rose in the planet of the little prince. He took care of her, while both of them went through a series of communication sensitivities and experiences, which made the life of both precious, indispensable, and existential.

One time, however, the little prince visited a garden of roses in the planet earth. There are a lot of roses. And they exactly looked like the rose he took care. All of them looked the same.

The little prince was so disappointed and cried:

And he felt very unhappy. Her flower had told him that she was the only one of her kind in the universe. And there were five thousand, all alike, in one garden!

And the fox came in for the little prince.

A series of conversations between the fox and the little prince was insightful. Gradually, the little prince who was happy with the drawing of a box could also learn another essential aspect of what is invisible to the eye.

The fox said to the little prince:

Here is my secret. It is very simple: one sees only with the heart. What is essential is invisible to the eye.

“The essential thing is invisible to the eyes,” repeated the little prince, in order to remember.

It’s the time you lost for your rose that makes your rose so important.

“It’s the time I lost for my rose,” said the little prince, in order to remember.

“Men have forgotten this truth,” said the fox. But you must not forget it. You become responsible forever for what you have tamed. You’re responsible for your rose …

“I am responsible for my rose,” repeated the little prince, in order to remember.

What is essential is invisible to the eye.

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