A version of this full essay—offered here as a two-part blog—was initially presented by Biola University Associate Professor, Jane E. Kim, at the commencement ceremony for the Torrey Honors College on May 10, 2019. Please see yesterday’s post for Part 1.
Secret Number Three: Only those to whom you give yourself become yours. During his time on Earth, the little prince also meets a fox who asks the little prince to tame him. “For me,” the fox says, “you’re only a little boy just like a hundred thousand other little boys. And I have no need of you. And you have no need of me, either… But if you tame me, we’ll need each other… You see the wheat fields over there?… For me wheat is of no use whatever… But you have hair the color of gold…The wheat…will remind me of you. And I’ll love the sound of the wind in the wheat…”
“I’d like to,” the little prince replies, “but I haven’t much time. I have friends to find and so many things to learn.”
“The only things you learn are the things you tame,” says the fox. “People haven’t time to learn anything. They buy things ready-made in stores. But since there are no stores where you can buy friends, people no longer have friends. If you want a friend, tame me!”
“What do I have to do?” the little prince asks.
“You have to be very patient,” the fox answers. “First, you’ll sit down a little ways away from me…I’ll watch you out of the corner of my eye, and you won’t say anything… But day by day, you’ll be able to sit a little closer…” The little prince tames the fox, and, when they part, the fox weeps, but he doesn’t regret it, he says, “because of the color of the wheat.”
Their tearful parting is similar to the ending of Dostoevsky’s Brothers Karamazov, where Alyosha, the youngest Karamazov brother, addresses a group of young boys who have just buried one of their friends. “Gentlemen,” he says, “Let us agree here…that…whatever may happen to us later in life…let us always remember how we buried the poor boy…whom…we all came to love so much…let us never forget how good we once felt here, all together, united by such good and kind feelings as made us,…for the time that we loved the poor boy, perhaps better than we actually are…You must know that there is nothing higher, or stronger, or sounder, or more useful afterwards in life, than some good memory, especially a memory from childhood…You hear a lot said about your education, yet some such beautiful, sacred memory preserved from childhood, is perhaps the best education… [E]ven if only one good memory remains with us in our hearts, that alone may serve some day for our salvation. Perhaps we will even become wicked later on…And yet, no matter how wicked we may be…as soon as we remember how we buried Ilyusha, how we loved him in his last days, and how we’ve been talking just now, so much as friends, so together…the most cruel and jeering man among us, if we should become so, will still not dare laugh within himself at how kind and good he was at this present moment!”
What these farewells illustrate to us is that friends can be not only the witnesses and sharers, but also the guardians of our spots of time (see Secret 2 in Part One), as well as the keepers of our purest feelings and the best versions of ourselves that are preserved in those spots of time. It is the entrusting of one’s self to a friend that renders the friendship precious, and the parting painful, for the departing friend takes a portion of yourself.
The little prince who loves a single rose, a flower he believes to be unique in all the world, learns this lesson when he comes upon a rose garden with five thousand roses identical to the one on his home planet. Though initially distressed, he remembers his fox, and says to them: “No one has tamed you and you haven’t tamed anyone… Of course, an ordinary passerby would think my rose looked just like you. But my rose, all on her own, is more important than all of you together, since she’s the one I’ve watered. Since she’s the one I put under glass. Since she’s the one I sheltered behind a screen. Since she’s the one for whom I killed the caterpillars (except the two or three for butterflies). Since she’s the one I listened to when she complained, or when she boasted, or even sometimes when she said nothing at all. Since she’s my rose.” It is the prince’s investment of himself that makes his rose his own.
Ivan Karamazov, the cynical second brother, scorns the personal sacrifices that love requires. “I never could understand how it’s possible to love one’s neighbors,” he says, “it is precisely one’s neighbors that one cannot possibly love. Perhaps if they weren’t so nigh…It’s still possible to love one’s neighbor abstractly, and even occasionally from a distance, but hardly ever up close” (235-6). Up close, there is the “bad smell” or the “foolish face” of the individual confronting us, and then “love vanishes.” But as we see in the life of Elder Zosima, there is no sanitary loving of neighbor in the abstract. We only arrive at a “universal love” by loving each thing and person we encounter, for love is “difficult to acquire” and “dearly bought, by long work over a long time” (319).
Friends, we have tamed one another, but as you go to love those to whom God will now call you, remember that it is only through the daily, costly sacrifices of the self that you truly gain a friend.
The fourth and final secret is that the best way to live on earth is by looking up at the stars. When the little prince decides to return home to his rose, he determines that his body is too heavy to take with him. It will only look like he is dying, he tells the pilot, but “that won’t be true.” He offers a present to his friend, saying, “When you look up at the sky at night, since I’ll be living on one of them, since I’ll be laughing on one of them, for you it’ll be as if all the stars are laughing… And when you’re consoled (everyone eventually is consoled), you’ll be glad you’ve known me. You’ll always be my friend… And you’ll open your window sometimes just for the fun of it… And your friends will be amazed to see you laughing while you’re looking up at the sky… And it’ll be as if I had given you, instead of stars, a lot of tiny bells that know how to laugh…”
The Roman poet Ovid describes the ability to look at the stars as a distinctly human quality. He writes in his creation account: “And while the other creatures on all fours / Look downwards, man was made to hold his head / Erect in majesty and see the sky, / And raise his eyes to the bright stars above” (Metamorphoses 1.82-5). The psalmist, also, teaches us to view the heavens as the essential backdrop against which to examine humankind: “When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, / what is mankind that you are mindful of them, / human beings that you care for them?” (Ps. 8:3-4). Indeed, the stars seem always to draw us to open the roof of the enclosed world of the secular and to climb towards the heavens of belief. Dante begins each cantica of his Divine Comedy with a contemplation of the heavens and ends with a vision of the stars. In the Inferno, especially, we draw with Dante the deep breath of freedom as we finally emerge from the “starless air of Hell” (3.23) and ascend to “see once more the stars” (34.139).
We are not looking, however, simply to abandon the earth and ascend to the stars, like Ovid’s Julius Caesar who is metamorphosed into a star, or Ovid himself who rises above the stars. I think our model should rather be Alyosha, who, after his elder’s death, looks up at the stars and then falls weeping to the earth, kissing it and vowing to love it. The idea is not to idolize the stars, but to remember the creator, namer, holder, and giver of the stars, and for his sake to love neighbor, self, and all creation. I am reminded of a poem that my mother, who was a Korean literature major, used to recite to me when I was young. I only recently realized that she had been misquoting—whether from lapse of memory or personal preference—my favorite line. Yoon Dohng-Joo’s original line reads: “별을 노래하는 마음으로 / 모든 죽어가는 것을 사랑해야지” though she would always say, “별을 사랑하는 마음으로,” to which version I have grown more attached and would translate as something like, “to love the decaying things of earth for love of a star.” It is by looking at the stars that Abraham learns to live in hope and in expectation of the promise, it is by following the star that the wise men come to find the baby Jesus, and it is by walking in the light that we also reveal the true light of the world to those around us.
Brothers and sisters, I want to leave you with a few verses from Philippians chapter 2: “Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed—not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence—continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose. Do everything without grumbling or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, ‘children of God without fault in a warped and crooked generation.’ Then you will shine among them like stars in the sky as you hold firmly to the word of life.”