“Once when I was six,” the story begins, “I saw a magnificent picture in a book about the jungle, called True Stories. It showed a boa constrictor swallowing a wild beast.” [The Little Prince, Antoine de Saint-Exupéry]
The little boy was fascinated by this picture and it fired his imagination. “In those days I thought a lot about jungle adventures,” he recalls, “and eventually managed to make my first drawing, using a colored pencil.”
He was incredibly proud of his drawing of the boa constrictor and called it his Drawing Number One . . . as if it were a symbol of his life, somehow representing the whole of his existence.
When the six-year-old showed his drawing to the grownups in his life, instead of seeing a boa constrictor digesting an elephant, they thought it was a drawing of a hat. Whenever he showed it to adults, he received the same response. The youngster concluded that none of the grownups had any imagination at all!
Wide-Open to Your World & Its Experiences
When you began life’s journey, you were wide-open to your world and the experiences it offers. You had a fertile imagination. All you lacked were the practical skills with which to explore and to express yourself. The boa constrictor is carefully chosen by the author to illustrate what more likely happened to you during your formative years. Instead of opening you up to more and more of yourself, growing up very probably had the opposite effect.
If you are at all like the average person, during the journey from childhood to adulthood much of the vitality was squeezed out of you. Instead of developing as a whole person, with your imagination fully alive, you learned to curtail your excitement.
Rather than following your own unique bent, you learned from the adults in your life, who cycle these behaviors from generation to generation, that only some aspects of your personality were acceptable, only some of your interests to be applauded, while other elements were to be discouraged.
Those parts of you that were frowned upon eventually atrophied. Whereas you started out open to the whole of yourself--indeed, open to the fullness not only of your own humanity, but of the universe itself--you gradually shut down to those parts of yourself that didn’t receive validation. As your vision narrowed, your ability to experience a world of wonder diminished . . . and with it your capacity for the romance and passion that make for a wonderful life.
Living Your Whole Life Passionately
Though there may be passionate interludes, chances are you don’t live your whole life passionately. For instance, you go on an adventure for a week or two, but life itself isn’t a thrilling adventure. You experience creative moments, but you don’t create your own magical reality each and every day from your internal richness. Flashes of insight occur to you, but you don’t live insightfully.
Instead you become a very practical person. You conform, which requires that you compromise yourself. You fit in with the expectations of family, peers, and the broader society to which you belong.
Adult rejection of his fledgling attempts to express himself resulted in self-rejection. Sadly, recalls the little boy now grown, “The grown-ups advised me to put away my drawings of boa constrictors . . . and apply myself instead to geography, history, arithmetic, and grammar.” Everyone knows that at the end of the day you must make money. You cannot make a living by “drawing!” Society requires you to become a bottom-line person.
Coming Fully Alive, Awake to Every Aspect of Being
In school, perhaps you were equipped to earn a future living, but were you taught how to live? Were you invited to come fully alive, awake to every aspect of your being? If you attended the usual learning institutions, more likely your own rhythms as a child were ignored. At a time when you were excited about yourself and discovering your world, you were forced to sit at a desk and get down to “the task at hand.”
The consequence of constricting children’s imaginations is evident in the dull drudgery many of us tramp through year after year in our home life, places of work, and retirement. Fulfillment should come from feeling a deep connection between yourself and the people and activities that make up your life.
When your contact with others is largely superficial, it stunts your ability to commune deeply with another person. Attempts at togetherness frequently feel contrived instead of spontaneous, strained instead of natural. Though at times you talk incessantly, you fail to say anything meaningful. Your real self hides behind a facade of niceties, a feigned enjoyment of each other, an affected interest in the activities through which you search for togetherness.
In short, adult life for many of us consists of a routine that fails to engage our souls. Individuals who are only half alive are neither truly fascinating themselves nor very interested in anyone else. Little wonder they have difficulty sustaining a meaningful connection.
The Key to Deep Connection
Savoring the moment is the key to deep connection. When you touch, you really touch--deep beneath the skin, right to the heart. When you converse, you say what you actually mean, and you focus until you truly understand each other, even though you may disagree and have to tolerate the fact you disagree. And when you look, you see all the way into the soul. You feel the connection, and you don’t let it go.
Many of us are merely going through the motions. Whether in the perfunctory way we caress each other in order to get to the “main act,” or in the evasive chitchat we engage in over a romantic dinner, we’re like the adults aboard express trains that race past a railway switchman the little prince will meet after he arrives on Earth.
Back and forth the brightly lit trains rush, and the little prince asks, “They weren’t satisfied, where they were?”
“No one is ever satisfied where he is,” says the switchman.
No matter what your outward circumstances, you can never be satisfied until you recognize that satisfaction comes from being true to yourself. No change of partner, switch of location, or alteration of lifestyle can fulfill you. Wherever you go, whoever you are with, whatever you are doing, you take yourself with you. If your real self is in hiding, or you are betraying yourself, all of this goes with you into your next endeavor.
You can’t experience authentic connection with another unless you’re willing to connect with your deepest self. If what you do on the surface of your life doesn’t mirror your essence--if you’re dishonest about your real desires, not revealing them to your partner, not taking action on them lest you rock the boat--you’ll forever feel dissatisfied.
Dissatisfied with yourself, you’ll be unable to connect in a fulfilling way with your partner. Until your inner world and your outer world align, meaningful connection between the two of you will always be sporadic . . . if it happens at all.
Getting In Touch With What’s Going On Inside You
It’s possible you don’t know how to get in touch with what’s going on inside you--with how constricted your inner life is from all the weighty things you’ve been forced to digest. Society certainly won’t encourage you to do this. If you ever got in touch with what’s happening inside you, you might begin to change, which would be a threat to a whole world of constricted adults.
You might become passionate, connected, deeply involved in all aspects of your life. Many of the adults in your life could never tolerate this! Consequently society presses you to compromise yourself by conforming. And so the little-boy-now-grown relates, “That is why I abandoned, at the age of six, a magnificent career as an artist.” [The Little Prince]
Instead our narrator learned to fly airplanes. Of course, for such a career the practical subjects to which he turned his attention in school proved valuable--particularly geography. These things are always good to know. The problem with this kind of knowledge is that it doesn’t facilitate connection to what you are doing or to the person you’re with.
So when you make these subjects the be-all-and-end-all of your life, you can end up leading a highly productive life but missing out on the one thing that makes everything else meaningful--knowing and living from your essence, which is the key to meaningful connection with your activities, the world around you, and a partner. You spend your days either running from connection, unaccustomed to it as you are, or yearning for it but not taking the steps that might enable you to find it.
Yearning To Express Your True Self
How do you recapture your original view of life as a smorgasbord of opportunity to be seized with your whole being? Deep awareness--being truly present, awake, alert, instead of having a mind filled with endless dull, nonsensical chatter--will fire within you a yearning to express your true self.
We live in a world of corseted, compromised people. Such individuals are afraid to plumb the depths. They are fearful of being out of their league. Their boa constrictor upbringing has done its job well. Many people are so out of touch with themselves that it’s impossible for them to connect with a partner . . . or with anyone on a close basis.
The rediscovery of your own center is the antidote to your alienation. This rediscovery of your deepest self is what the story of the little prince is all about.
The Antidote to Your Alienation
First you must face how you run from yourself--recognize how you use activities, social status, relationships in which you fail to be true to yourself, and material possessions to cover up the void in your soul.
If you stop to ponder your life, you already have an inkling where the lack of connection lies. You sense the ways in which you sell yourself out--how you compromise yourself and settle for mediocrity.
Second you need to realize that there is no reason to run from yourself. In order to truly grow up, you must rediscover a part of yourself that got buried in those years when you were supposedly “growing up.” You allow yourself to awaken to the part of you that is spontaneous, feeling, excited, and genuine.
I’m talking about learning to be true to yourself. Children know how to do this because they are real, and it’s back to your real self that you are called by the little prince. Fulfillment is a soul thing. It expands as you become increasingly true to your essence in all aspects of your life.
Experiencing Life As A Great Adventure
“Life is either a grand adventure,” said Helen Keller, who was blind and deaf, “or it is nothing at all.” It’s by finding again your most authentic self, beneath the false self that’s been layered onto you, that you can experience life as a grand adventure--and experience the connection you crave with a partner for whom life is also a passionate experience.
The journey begins when you have the courage to face up to the fact you’ve been defined by a boa constrictor . . . and understand how tightly it has held you in its grip.
Subtitles by InnerSelf.
©2015 by David Robert Ord. All Rights Reserved.
Reprinted with permission of Namasté Publishing,
Lessons On Loving In The Little Prince: Insights and Inspirations
by David Robert Ord.
About the Author
David Robert Ord is author of Your Forgotten Self and coauthor of The Coming Interspiritual Age with Dr. Kurt Johnson. Born in Harrogate, Yorkshire, he grew up and was educated in England, eventually coming to the United States, where he today resides on the Big Island of Hawaii. He serves as editorial director for Namasté Publishing.