Sunday, March 2, 2008

Reflections on a Simple Lesson

“And now here is my secret, a very simple secret: it is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye”—the fox in The Little Prince

My godmother many years ago gave me the Antoine de Saint Exupéry book, “The Little Prince”. I thanked her for it, and then (likely) picked up my Mad magazine again.

It’s too bad I didn’t dive right into reading this story of the Little Prince and his flower and volcanoes and journeying around the galaxy. But, as with so many things in my life, I wasn’t ready as a child to absorb the full meaning of the messages in this intricate fairy tale until I reached adulthood.

I read “The Little Prince” for the first time about two years ago. And the part that struck me then, and stays with me today, is the chapter where the Little Prince encounters the fox. The prince is distraught and alone and wants the fox to play with him. But the fox insists that first the Little Prince must tame him. The prince doesn’t understand this… and the fox explains that “taming” means to “establish ties”.

“To me, you are still nothing but a little boy just like a hundred thousand other little boys…. To you, I am nothing more than a fox like a hundred thousand other foxes. But if you tame me, then we shall need each other.”

The prince reflects on this and remembers his proud flower from his planet that had him waiting on her hand and foot. The fox goes on, begging for the prince to break up the monotony of his canine life and tame him. The prince is reluctant at first because he has so much more to discover. But the fox reminds him that one only understands the things one tames. And so the prince agrees to tame the fox. He learns that this means sitting off at some distance at first, and being patient. And he must observe the “rite” of always coming to the same place at the same time every day, so that the fox might grow in his excitement at the arrival of the boy with the hair the color of wheat. Eventually, it is time for the prince to depart, and the fox says this will make him cry. The prince blames the fox for his own misery since it was the animal’s insistence that he be tamed.

“But now you are going to cry!” said the Little Prince.
“Yes, that is so,” said the fox.
“Then it has done you no good at all!”
“It has done me good,” said the fox, “because of the color of the wheat fields.”

And the fox tells the prince to go back to the roses the Prince had encountered in a previous chapter, and the child will see and appreciate that the flower he loved and cared for on his home planet had become his friend which made her unique and distinctive from all the other flowers in the galaxy. The prince does as he’s told and then returns to the fox to say good-bye, and the fox has the boy repeat the lesson learned:

“What is essential is invisible to the eye…. it is the time you have wasted for your rose that makes your rose so important. Men have forgotten this truth. But you must not forget it. You become responsible forever for what you have tamed. You are responsible for your rose.”

I am so struck by this chapter of the book because I have been both the Little Prince and the fox. I have been the one who waits with patience to build the trust necessary to establish the tie with another, and I have certainly, more often than not, taken the fox-like approach with people… insisting that we must establish the ties through practicing rites of “getting to know me” first before we can consider ourselves to be friends. And the reward for me, in both cases, has been developing connections that are not just fleeting acquaintances, but actual friends.

If I were to translate this lesson into the massage setting, I see it as that first meeting with a client where the most important thing is to establish the safety of the relationship. The therapist has to be willing to take the time and be patient to learn what is necessary for each person. By creating the space for a client, it creates an opening in which a therapist can see the whole person. And it is through that process that I understand that no two “shoulder pains” are alike. An understanding which comes from a place of having an open heart.

So, thanks, godmother, for a gift that has finally caught up to me...30 years later!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

This is so important for you to have learned, but you have always waited on the edge of the circle before jumping in...It is your nature and now this reading has helped you see it. Good!