The Wisdom of Saint-Exupery

atkins-bookshelf-quotationsLike his beloved character, the little prince, Antoine de Saint-Exupery (pronounced “Ant-wan  duh  san ek-ZOO-pay-ree”) was a curious and intrepid traveler. Saint-Exupery was an accomplished commercial and military pilot with the soul of a poet. From his airplane, high above the earth, the poet-pilot was able to observe humanity more clearly and appreciate it more profoundly. Throughout his journeys, Saint-Exupery added to his “cargo of experiences” and wove his insights into his writings that were immediately embraced by people, young and old, all over the world. Anna Burgard gathered these pearls of wisdom in her enchanting book, “A Guide for Grown-Ups: Essential Wisdom from the Collected Works for Antoine de Saint-Exupery. In the introduction of the book, Burgard identifies the author’s key themes that guided her collection of quotations: “Whether on land or in flight, Saint-Exupery ceaselessly considered the human condition. What interested and concerned the author most became the recurring themes in his books: the source of happiness, the nature of friendship, the strength of love, the commitment to duty.” Indeed, like the little prince tamed the fox, Saint-Exupery tamed humanity and opened up his heart, and shared his timeless wisdom with the world, inspired by his love and appreciation of his fellow man. To read (or re-read) his words, is to feel the warm embrace of an old, cherished friend — whom you have forgotten from time to time, but who has never forgotten you. Bookshelf presents the wisdom of Saint-Exupery:

In giving, you are throwing a bridge across the chasm of your solitude.

I need to put up with two or three caterpillars if I want to get to know the butterflies.

True freedom lies only in the creative process. The fisherman is free when he fishes according to his instinct. The sculptor is free when carving a face.

Happiness! It is useless to seek it elsewhere than in this warmth of human relations.

If I summon up those memories that have left with me an enduring savor, it I draw up the balance sheet of the hours in my life that have truly counted, surely I find only those that no wealth could have procured me.

Our friends cannot be created out of hand. Nothing can match the treasure of common memories, of trials endured together, of quarrels and reconciliations and generous emotions. It is idle, having planted an acorn in the morning, to expect that afternoon to sit in the shade of the oak.

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.

The tender friendships one gives up, on parting, leave their bite on the heart, but also a curious feeling of a treaure somewhere buried.

He who is different from me does not impoverish me — he enriches me. Our unity is constituted in something higher than ourselves — in Man.

When we exchange manly handshakes, compete in races, join together to save one of us who is in trouble, cry aloud for help in the hour of danger — only then do we learn that we are not alone on earth.

Friendship is born from an identity of spiritual goals — from common navigation toward a star.

The arms of love encompass you with your present, your past, your future, the arms of love gather you together.

Life has taught us that love does not consist in gazing at each other but in looking outward together in the same direction.

Very slowly do we plait the braid of friendships and affections. We learn slowly.

If your love has no hope of being welcomed do not voice it; for if it be silent it can endure, a guarded flame, within you.

Love is not thinking, but being.

People have forgotten this truth,” the fox said. “But you musn’t forget it. You become responsible forever for what you’ve tamed.”

A civilization is built on what is required of men, not on that which is provided for them.

You’ll be bothered from time to time by storms, fog, snow. When you are, think of those who went through it before you, and say to yourself, “What they could do, I can do.”

The important thing is to strive towards a goal which is not immediately visible. That goal is not the concern of the mind, but of the spirit.

The one thing that matters is the effort. It continues, whereas the end to be attained is but an illusion of the climber, as he fares on and on from crest to crest; and once the goal is reached it has no meaning.

What saves a man is to take a step. Then another step. It is always the same step, but you have to take it.

One sees clearly only with the heart. Anything essential is invisible to the eyes.

It is much harder to judge yourself than to judge others. If you succeed in judging yourself, it’s because you are truly a wise man.

No single event can awaken within us a stranger totally known to us. To live is to be slowly born.

A man’s age is something impressive, it sums up his life: maturity reached slowly and against many obstacles, illnesses cured, griefs and despairs overcome, and unconscious risks taken; maturity formed through so many desires, hopes, regrets, forgotten things, loves. A man’s age represents a fine cargo of experiences and memories.

Read related posts: The Wisdom of Tom Shadyac
The Wisdom of Morrie Schwartz
The Wisdom of a Grandmother

For further reading: A Guide for Grownups: Essential Wisdom from the Collected Works of Antoine de Saint-Exupery by Anna Burgard, Harcourt (2002)

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