The Princes of the World



I showed my masterpiece to the grown-ups and asked them if my drawing frightened them. They answered: "Why should anyone be frightened by a hat?" My drawing did not represent a hat. It was supposed to be a boa constrictor digesting an elephant.

Naive and yet quite straightforward lines of "The Little Prince" that have completely different -- almost opposite -- impressions on two groups of people: a child will probably smile at it without paying much attention, whereas adults who long to go back in time to once more have the privilege of believing that imagining is enough to make things possible will have a bitter smile on their faces. They will read the lines over and over again, as if reading them would have the power to undo the effects of what is called growing up, which they have been the victims of for years. They will then give up and move on to the next paragraph, defeated, but willing to take a trip into this little man's life, because only when they read are they allowed to imagine.

Although classified as a children's book, "The Little Prince" deserves people's notice regardless of their age, because of the idealistic observations made in the novella regarding human behavior. It tells the story of a man who as a child was interested in drawing but, having failed to be truly understood due to the limitations of the adult mind, has given it up for good. He keeps the aforementioned drawing with him, using it to find out whether the people he meets are as clear-sighted as they seem. His acquaintances never turn out to be so, until one day his plane crashes on a deserted island that has only one inhabitant: a little prince, who immediately is frightened by the drawing because he sees the boa constrictor digesting the elephant. The reader is then allowed to be a spectator of the adventures of the little prince, who cares about nothing more than his flower, and is mostly remembered for the following lines: "One sees clearly only with the heart. What is essential is invisible to the eye."

Every time I read this book, I try to think back to the time when I started to make the distinction between real and imaginary. This more than often results in a strong wish to be a child, for children are governed by an internal force: that is, their belief that everything they can think of is real, and thus possible to materialize. External forces, however, take over when children are forced to accept the realities of life, the most powerful of which is education.

An ideal education system should aim to give children those facts about the world that are not open to discussion, combined with skills of observation and analysis, without discouraging their creativity. The number of ideas regarding an ideal education system is probably greater than the number of children who are intended to benefit from it. Unfortunately, instead of giving children the means to make use of their wide-ranging imaginations, the current system is designed to ignore their eagerness to create and to make them accept the system's representation of the world as an absolute reality that no one is allowed to question. The taming process, so to speak, exploits two great weaknesses of children: their hunger to learn due to their lack of knowledge, and their willingness to do anything they are told for the promise of a better future.

This approach toward education can be described as a case in which the end overshadows the means: a job-oriented system that takes away the joys of learning and makes it nothing more than a tool. As Nietzsche states in his book "Twilight of the Idols," "Everywhere an indecent haste prevails, as though something would be lost if the young man of twenty-three were not yet 'finished,' or if he did not yet know the answer to the 'main question': which occupation?" With the existing view of education as an obstacle that needs to be overcome to reach one's ultimate goal, it shouldn't come as a surprise that most students are willing to give up imagining and do what they are told, in order to finally start living their lives -- "real life," defined as life after school. This was a view I used to share with a lot of students, until this year, when I realized I was a fourth-year student who was not at all eager to graduate: not because life after graduation requires getting out of the safe circle provided by my parents, but because I really do enjoy learning.

So this year, instead of getting carried away by the New Year extravaganza, which includes New Year's resolutions -- goals that will serve for nothing except to make me miserable for not reaching them -- I decided to have dinner with a couple of friends and take delight in my latest discovery: I have reached the end, since the journey itself is the end. And I could not have been happier.