“What is genius? It is the power to be a boy again at will.” — J.M Barrie
“Draw me a sheep.” It’s the best pickup line ever. You won’t be surprised to hear that it was created by a smooth-talking French man, but you might be surprised to hear that I wish someone would use it on me one day.
This weekend I re-read Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s The Little Prince, which I plowed through for the first time as an oblivious ten year old. Though it is ostensibly for children, with its large type and delicate watercolor illustrations, the book is profoundly philosophical — in the sense that it brings to light the strangeness of our adult world.
The Little Prince’s storyline is set into motion when a former artist crashes his plane into an uninhabited dessert. The hopeless man is soon approached by a young prince, who claims to have fallen to Earth from a tiny asteroid. “Draw me a sheep,” the prince tells the disillusioned pilot. And so begins the friendship between a grown-up and a child whose surprisingly astute observations about human nature compel his older comrade to recalibrate what he deems paramount in life.
What I find so beautiful about The Little Prince — other than the artwork — is the manner in which Saint-Exupéry conveys a dual message. On one hand, he teaches kids about the significance of strong values, demonstrating through metaphors how power is meaningless without integrity, and how “the important things in life are visible only to the heart.” On the other hand, he reminds adults to never discount wisdom borne by their younger counterparts, inspiring them to retain the senses of wonderment and endless possibility which tend to fall by the wayside with age and with “experience.”
The next time you find yourself indoors on a rainy weekend, I highly recommend revisiting a book you first enjoyed as a child. You will surely feel as if you are reading a different story, but more importantly you might discover that maturity does not necessitate seriousness.
If a sketch of a quadrupedal mammal can be the bonding agent for one of literature’s most charming duos, then it, too, can be one for us adults in real life. “Draw me a sheep.” It’s a gem of a pickup line, I’m telling you. If only there were more adults out there who were willing to try it.