Those who are familiar with Antoine de Saint Exupéry’s The Little Prince know that it’s an allegory with a timeless message of love and hope. I’m not sure why the story has been on my mind recently, though I’m drawn to one particular quote. “What is essential is invisible to the eye.”
Nearly 50 years ago, I was cast as the businessman in an all-women community production of The Little Prince. Full of stage fright, I gave little thought to the message behind the role. I needed only to learn my lines and sing the businessman’s song, both intimidating tasks.
The businessman spends every moment counting the stars, believing that he owns them since he counts them. He has no time to engage in petty conversation. His work is all encompassing. He says: “I have so much to do! I am concerned with matters of consequence. I don’t amuse myself with balderdash.” (13.5) The Little Prince becomes frustrated with the arrogance of the businessman and feels that he is missing the importance of the beauty around him.
Older and wiser now, I wonder why I was cast in that role. Did I exhibit those traits way back then? Perhaps it’s possible because it’s sometimes my reality now. I stay busy, wanting to focus on my writing, improve my stories, become more descriptive. Create ads, find keywords. Connect with social media. Develop a following. No time to waste. I have so much to do.
To be a good writer, “what is essential is invisible to the eye.” We can’t develop characters who are engaging if we’re not open to the presence of others in our lives. We can’t engage our readers if we don’t involve all of our senses throughout the day. The musky perfumed smell of a rose, the myriad colors of variegated summer leaves, the sound of early morning birds chirping, the taste of cold vanilla ice cream, the touch of a gentle hand. If these sensory images are lacking, we have a one-dimensional author.
The Little Prince said, “I know a planet where there is a certain red-faced gentleman. He has never smelled a flower. He has never looked at a star. He has never loved anyone. He has never done anything in his life but add up figures. And all day he says over and over…‘I am busy with matters of consequence!’ And that makes him swell up with pride. But he is not a man—he is a mushroom!” (7.24)
I don’t want to be a mushroom.