Family Works: Speaking on meaning
by By ROB COOMBS ID. Min. Ph.D.
Jul 07, 2013 | 1173 views | 0 0 comments | 65 65 recommendations | email to a friend | print
In the Antoine De Saint-Exupery book, “The Little Prince,” the author tells a wonderful story of a little prince, scarcely 3 feet tall, who appears in the desert next to a pilot who had just crashed his ill-fated plane and was desperately trying to make the necessary repairs before he ran out of water and withered away in the hot desert sun. As they converse, the pilot learns that this little prince had journeyed to many different planets seeking someone who understood the meaning of life.

During his journeys he encounters a businessman who believes numbers are more important than people, a conceited man with an inflated ego that knows no boundaries, a king with an exaggerated and false perception of what he actually rules, a tippler consumed with an addiction to alcohol, and a lamplighter who just follows orders. The visits had frustrated the little prince. Although he had had encounters with a great many people, none of them seemed to have any better understanding of life than he did.

Finally the Little Prince’s journeys take him to Earth where he begins to build a relationship with this pilot who is fixing his plane. Together, they come to understand the meaning of life. It seems this Little Prince had, on his planet, a single rose he loved dearly. One of his greatest concerns was to find a way to protect his rose, particularly from a sheep he also owned. He asks for advice from the pilot who coldly brushes off the importance of the rose, as if a single rose could not be a matter of consequence. After all, there was the urgent matter of a plane that needed to be fixed.

The Little Prince becomes enraged. He screams at the pilot, “My flower, my one flower which is unique in all the world, which grows nowhere but on my planet, but which one little sheep can destroy in a single bite some morning, without even noticing what he is doing — Oh! You think that is not important!” His face turns from white to red and he continues: “If someone loves a flower, of which just one single blossom grows in all the millions and millions of stars, it is enough to make him happy just to look at the stars. He can say to himself: ‘Somewhere, my flower is there ...’”

Slowly, ever so slowly, the pilot finally understands that what is more important than nuts and bolts, the hot desert sun, or even food and water, is having meaningful relationships. Without relationships, life is hardly worth the effort.

Sadly, many desperately lonely people travel to many different worlds in vain attempts to find a substitute to ease the pain resulting from the lack of relationships. One such world is the world of addictions — alcohol, drugs, sex, food, television, power, shopping — that can provide temporary relief but always leaves the individual sadder, lonelier, and more desperate.

Another world is the world of status. With enough money, the “right” acquaintances, or perhaps an academic degree worthy of note, others attempt to substitute feeling important for feeling included. I can’t tell you how many rich, important people there are who struggle daily with feelings of emptiness.

Still others travel to worlds where they become consumed with their jobs, perhaps hoping that their busyness will at least distract them from their loneliness. And, too many finally enter a world of quiet desperation where they give up on themselves, others, and life in general. Going through the motions of life becomes a substitute for living.

Retreats to worlds devoid of meaningful, worthwhile, significant relationships are understandable. Good relationships are far from easy. Risking vulnerability and rejection is enough to make many shy from attempting connection. This is such a shame, as the true joy of life is born out of relationships. The Little Prince was right. Relationships are the supreme “matter of consequence.”