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Wisdom of the Sands

Wisdom of the Sands

by

by

Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

Spiritual Science

Spiritual Science

Published by University of Chicago Press/IL in 1979

Published by University of Chicago Press/IL in 1979

A Book evie! by Bobby "atherne #$%%$

A Book evie! by Bobby "atherne #$%%$

~^~ 

~^~ 

When I first

When I first read this book, read this book, apparently I missed reading apparently I missed reading WWalalterter Fowlie's wonderful Introduction. Reading introductions,

Fowlie's wonderful Introduction. Reading introductions,  prefaces, forewords, and acknowledgments of books is an  prefaces, forewords, and acknowledgments of books is an

acquired taste, similar to eating the crust of

acquired taste, similar to eating the crust of bread slices — it'sbread slices — it's not for the young. In this passage Fowlie eplains the process of not for the young. In this passage Fowlie eplains the process of the book!

the book!

[page ix] A young chieftain,

[page ix] A young chieftain, un jeune caïd,un jeune caïd, the protagonist, isthe protagonist, is being gradually instructed by

being gradually instructed by his father, his father, who was thewho was the founder of the empire and who is in full control of the founder of the empire and who is in full control of the

inhabitants. The young caïd is taught to discern which moral inhabitants. The young caïd is taught to discern which moral and behaioral factors eleate, and w

and behaioral factors eleate, and which degrade thehich degrade the people. !e learns to recogni"e those aspects of ciili"ation people. !e learns to recogni"e those aspects of ciili"ation that strengthen the empire, and those that may cause its that strengthen the empire, and those that may cause its decline.

decline.

"traight away on page #, the father's homily to his son begins "traight away on page #, the father's homily to his son begins with the theme of $pity led

with the theme of $pity led astray.astray.$ %e talks of how he $ %e talks of how he pitiedpitied  beggars and e&en sent his doctors to heal their sores. hen one  beggars and e&en sent his doctors to heal their sores. hen one

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day he $disco&ered that beggars cling to their stench as to something rare and precious.$

[page #] $or % had caught them scratching away their scabs and smearing their bodies with dung, li&e the husbandman who spreads manure oer his garden plot, so as to wean from it the crimson flower. 'ying with each other, they flaunted their corruption, and bragged of the alms they

wrung from the tender(hearted. !e who had wheedled most li&ened himself to a high priest bringing forth from the

shrine his goodliest idol for all to gape at and heap with

offerings. )hen they deigned to consult my physician, it was in the hope that hugeness and irulence of their can&ers

would astound him. And how nimbly they shuffled their stumps to hae room made for them in the mar&et places* Thus they too& the &indness done them for a homage,

proffering their limbs to unctions that flattered their self( esteem.

If the process of the book is homily, the theme is citadelle — the home, the fortress, the castle in which we dwell. hat $inner

courtyard$ that we build up around our sel&es, $as the cedar  builds itself upon the seed.$

[page +#, +] $or % perceied that man-s estate is as a citadel he may throw down the walls to gain what he calls freedom, but then nothing of him remains sae a dismantled fortress, open to the stars. And then begins the anguish of not(being. $ar better for him were it to achiee his truth in the homely smell of bla"ing ine shoots, or of the sheep he has to shear. Truth stri&es deep, li&e a well. A ga"e that wanders loses sight of /od. And that wise man who, &eeping his thoughts

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in hand, &nows little more than the weight of his floc&-s wool has a clearer ision of /od than [anyone]. 0itadel, % will

build you in men-s hearts.

[page +1] $or % hae lit on a great truth to wit, that all men dwell, and life-s meaning changes for them with the meaning of the home.

(nd now we come upon the theme within the theme! the

meaning of things. (ntoine de "aint)*up+ry wrote this entire  book about the meaning of things. his theme is like sand

flowing through the hourglass of this wonderful book — the sand of the hourglass has no meaning in itself, the meaning in us, what meaning we make of the flowing sand. his re&iew of Citadelle gi&es me a chance to place my hand into the hourglass of time and allow me to share with you, dear Reader, some

grains of sand that flow through my fingers.

In the story of his father's house, the process of homily, the

citadel in which men dwell, and the meaning of things all come together with a flourish. he son is led to understand his father's house as he contemplates its destruction. he son comes to see the &alue, the meaning, of his father's house, whose walls were the constraints his father had shaped for the son to come to know himself. hose walls, which after his father's death, were

doomed — when some dolt came and questioned the meaning of  things.

[page +2] That is why % hate irony, which is not a man-s weapon, but the dolt-s. $or the dolt says to us 3These practices of yours do not obtain elsewhere. 4o why not

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you always to house your harest in the barn and the cattle in the shed53 6ut it is he who is the dupe of words, for he &nows not that something which words cannot comprehend. !e &nows not that men dwell in a house.

(s the story unfolds, one cannot help but remember the -/s when so many questions were asked about our culture, when so many young people demonstrated against old traditions, and when so many beautiful structures were laid in ruins to be replaced by concrete parking lots and the ilk.

[page +2, +7] And then his ictims, now that the house has lost its meaning for them, fall to dismantling it. Thus men destroy their best possession, the meaning of things on feast days they pride themseles on standing out against old

custom, and betraying their traditions, and toasting their enemy. True, they may feel some 8ualms as they go about their deeds of sacrilege. 4o long as there is sacrilege. 4o long as there still is something against which they reolt. Thus for a while they continue trading on the fact that their foe still breathes, and the ghostly presence of the laws still hampers them enough for them to feel li&e outlaws. 6ut presently the ery ghost dissoles into thin air, and the rapture of reolt is gone, een the "est of ictory forgotten. And now they yawn. [page +7] 9n the ruins of the palace they hae laid out a

public s8uare: but once the pleasure of trampling its stones with upstart arrogance has lost its "est, they being to wonder what they are doing here, on this noisy fairground. And now, lo and behold, they fall to picturing, dimly as yet, a great

house with a thousand doors, with curtains that billow on your shoulders and slumbrous anterooms. ;erchance they

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dream een of a secret room, whose secrecy perades the whole ast dwelling. Thus, though they &now it not, they are pining for my father-s palace where eery footstep had a

meaning.

(nd where in that palace is this meaning  to be found0 "urely not in the bricks, the stones, the tiles that comprise the palace,

 because if the owner were to dismantle the palace into a pile of brick and stones, $he would not be

able to disco&er therein the silence, the shadows and the pri&acy they bestowed.$ 1ut rather it is in the heart and soul of the

architect who dreamed of and built the palace. his is the author's song to the human spirit.

[page <+] %, the architect: %, who hae a heart and soul: %, who wield the power of transforming stone into silence. % step in and mold that clay, which is the raw material, into the li&eness of the creatie ision that comes to me from /od: and not through any faculty of reason. Thus, ta&en solely by the saor it will hae, % build my ciili"ation: as poets build their poems, bending phases to their will and changing words, without being called upon to =ustify the phrasing of the changes, but ta&en solely by the saor these will hae, ouched for by their hearts.

he book theme has mo&ed from the citadel, to the meaning of things, to the $I$ or human spirit that infuses the world with its ali&eness and creati&ity. 2ne cannot speak of such things

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speak of such things unless one writes as eloquently as (ntoine de "aint)*up+ry.

%e speaks of how the breast beam of one's ship groans when the storm tosses one's ship about and how the *arth itself groans when an earthquake tosses one's house about! $2nly behold today how that which should be silent is gi&ing tongue.$ (nd when the *arth begins to speak, what is it that men are fearful for0

[page <>] )e trembled, not so much fearing for ourseles as for all the things we had labored to perfect, things for which we had been bartering ourseles lifelong. As for me, % was a carer of metal, and % feared for the great siler ewer on which % had toiled for years: for whose perfection % had

bartered two years of sleepless nights. Another feared for the deep(piled carpets he had re=oiced to weae. ?ery day he unfurled them in the sun: he was proud of haing bartered somewhat of his gnarled flesh for that rich flood of color, deep and dierse as the waes of the sea. Another feared for the olie trees he had planted. 6ut, 4ire, % ma&e bold to say, not one of us feared death: we all feared for our foolish little things. )e were discoering that life has a meaning only if one barters it day by day for something other than itself.

Thus the death of the gardener does no harm to the tree: but if you threaten the tree the gardener dies twice.

If we follow his line of thought we must come to the conclusion that whate&er one spends one's life doing, whate&er one barters one's life for is important in itself for that &ery reason! it is an in&estment into which we ha&e poured our most precious asset, our hours.

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[page #@] 4o it is with the ob=ect of the barter: and the fool who thin&s fit to blame that old woman for her embroidery   on the pretext that she might hae wrought something

else  out of his own mouth he is conicted of preferring nothingness to creation.

For (ntoine de "aint)*up+ry there is only lo&e for the

craftsman and disdain for those who surround themsel&es only with luuries bought from merchants, those who gi&e nothing of  themsel&es to life.

[page #@] Bo loe hae % for the sluggards, the sedentaries of the heart: for those who barter nothing of themseles

become nothing. Cife will not hae sered to ripen them. $or them Time flows li&e a handful of sand and wears them

down.

(s my own parents aged, they were ne&er sedentary3 always their hands were full of something to do. For my mother it was knitting booties, sewing quilts, making pine needle baskets, crocheting centerpieces, or painting the duck decoys my dad car&ed. For my dad, when he wasn't car&ing his decoys of

upelo 4um wood, he was car&ing up the ground to plant okra,  potatoes, corn, bell peppers, squash, cucumbers, and tomatoes. I

thought of my dad poring o&er his wood burning tool for hours as he etched the feathers into the bare wood of his otherwise finished decoy when I read this passage from this book!

[page ##] % saw, too, my one(legged cobbler busy threading gold into his leathern slippers and, wea& as was his oice, % guessed that he was singing. 3)hat is it, cobbler, that ma&es you so happy53 6ut % heeded not the answer: for % &new that

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he would answer me amiss and prattle of money he had

earned, or his meal, or the bed awaiting him  &nowing not that his happiness came from his transfiguring himself into golden slippers. . .

(s I read further into this book, I became the caïd , the young chieftain being instructed by the older chieftain "aint)*up+ry and his words burned into me like the feathers burning to life under my own father's wood)burning tool. With each page I turned, another fiery thought was burned into me.

[page 1<] %f you wish them to be brothers, hae them build a tower. 6ut if you would hae them hate each other, throw them corn.

[page D@] )hat you do, you stablish: and that is all. %f when progressing towards a certain goal, you ma&e(beliee to

moe towards another, only he who is tool of words will thin& you cleer. )e do not deceie the tree: it grows as we train it to grow  and all else is words that weae the wind. [page D#] -Tis the art of reasoning that leads men to ma&e mista&es.

[page D7] Then your temple will draw them to it li&e a

magnet and in its silence they will search their souls  and find themseles*

[page 7D] That alone is useful which resists you.

[page 72] . . . the liing tree clutches the earth and molds it into flowers.

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"ome of the lessons the great chieftain ga&e to his son was about his generals and his police. hese I found most instructi&e and would like to share them with you. First the generals of his army!

[page 7@] Thus % made answer to my generals when they came and tal&ed to me of 39rder,3 but confused the order wherein power is immanent with the layout of museums. . . . my generals hold that those things only are in order which hae ceased to differ from each other. Eid % let them hae their way, they would 3improe3 those holy boo&s which reeal an order bodying forth /od-s wisdom, by imposing order on the letters, as to which the merest child can see they are mingled with a purpose. Fy generals would put all the A-s together, all the 6-s and so forth: and thus they would hae a well(marshalled boo&: a boo& to the taste of generals.

5ears ago I disco&ered that when one holds a question

unanswered in one's mind for a time, sooner or later the answer rises into consciousness as if it had been there all the time and needed time for it to arri&e. (nswering such a question

immediately with one's conscious mind substitutes a pale

simulacrum for the true answer that else arri&e later. I epressed this idea in 6atherne's Rule 789 which says, $What is the power  of an unanswered question0$ In this net passage I disco&ered the power of unasking a question or disco&ering that a question was essentially a meaningless question and not worthy of asking in the first place.

[page +<7] $or it has been brought home to me that man-s 3progress3 is but a gradual discoery that his 8uestions hae no meaning. Thus when % consult my learned men, far from

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haing found answers to last year-s 8uestions, lo, % see them smiling contentedly to themseles because the truth has

come to them as the annulment of a 8uestion, not its answer.

We ha&e all argued our positions with others and ha&e usually found no resolution in the argument, only bad feelings on both  parts, up until now. he author offers us this worthy ad&ice.

[page +#>] Thus % would hae you refrain from wranglings   which lead nowhere. )hen others re=ect your truths on

the strength of facts aerred by them, remind yourself that you, too, on the strength of facts aerred by you, re=ect their truths, when you fall to wrangling with them. Gather, accept them. Ta&e them by the hand and guide them. 4ay, 3Hou are right, yet let us climb the mountain together.3 Then you

maintain order in the world and they will draw deep breaths of eager air, loo&ing down on the plain which they, too, hae con8uered.

[page +1<] 0onfuse not loe with the raptures of possession, which bring the cruellest of sufferings. $or, notwithstanding the general opinion, loe does not cause suffering what

causes it is the sense of ownership, which is loe-s opposite. [page +1] Then ta&e today as it is gien you, and chafe not against the irreparable. 3%rreparable3 indeed means

nothing: it is but the epithet of all that is bygone. And since no goal is eer attained, no cycle eer completed, no epoch eer ended Isae for the historian, who inents these

diisions for your conenienceJ, how dare you affirm that any steps you hae ta&en which hae not yet reached, and neer will reach, their consummation, are to be regretted5

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$or the meaning of things lies not in goods that hae been amassed and stored away  which the sedentaries consume   but in the heat and stress of transformation, of pressing

forward, and of yearnings unassuaged.

[page +>+] $or you can only gie what you transform, as the tree gies the fruits of the earth which it has transformed. The dancer gies the dance into which she has transformed her wal&ing steps.

he last story is about the chieftain's police officers, who $in their lush stupidity$ ha&e confronted him and insisted that they ha&e disco&ered a sect responsible for the downfall of the

empire. "o the chieftain asked them, $(nd how do you know that these men are working in concert0$

[page ##@] Then they told me of certain signs they had

noticed, showing that these men formed a secret society, and of certain coincidences in the things they did, een naming the place where they held their meetings.

When the chieftain asked how this secret society was a danger to the empire, they told him of their crimes, rapes, ignobility, and their repellant appearance. he chieftain did not dispute their claim of a dangerous secret society, instead he followed the ad&ice gi&en abo&e in the quotation from page # and in&ited them to climb the mountain together.

[page ##+] 3)ell,3 % said, 3% &now a secret society that is still more dangerous, for no one has eer thought of fighting

against it.3

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And now they were agog with eagerness: for the police

officer, being born to use his fists, wilts if there be none on whom to ply them.

3The secret society,3 % answered, 3of those men who hae a mole on the left temple.3

(s his policemen protested that they had seen no signs of such meetings, the chieftain claimed that made them all the more

dangerous. 1ut as soon as he will denounce them in public, they will be seen banding together. hen a former carpenter coughed and spoke up saying he knew a man who had a mole on his left temple who was $honest, gentle, open)hearted$ and was

wounded defending the empire. he chieftain said they should waste no time on eceptions.

[page ##<] 9nce all the men who bear that mar& hae been traced out, loo& into their past. Hou will find they hae been concerned in all manner of crimes from rapes and

&idnappings to embe""lement and treason, and public acts of  indecency  not to mention their minor ices such as

gluttony. Eare you tell me they are innocent of such things53

he policemen shook their fists in anger and cried, $:o, no;$ 1ut the carpenter spoke up and questioned what if one's father,  brother or kin had a mole on the left temple. he chieftain's

anger rose once more.

[page ##<] 3Fore dangerous still is the -sect- of those who hae a mole on the right temple. And, in our innocense, we neer gae them a thought* )hich means they hide

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-sect- of those who hae no mole on their faces, for clearly such men disguise themseles, li&e foul conspirators, so as to do their eil wor& unnoticed. 4o, when all is said and done, % can but condemn the whole human race  since there is no denying that it is the source of all manner of crimes: rapes and &idnappings, embe""lement and treason and public acts of indecency. And inasmuch as my police officers, besides being police officers, are men, % will begin my purge with

them, since -purges- of this sort are their function. Therefore % order the policeman who is in each of you to lay hold of the man who is in each of you, and fling him into the most

noisome dugeon of my citadel.3

(s the policemen were going out, the chieftain asked the

carpenter to stay and dismissed him from his police, saying that $the carpenter's truth . . . is no truth for police officers.$

[page ###] 3%f the code sets a blac& mar& against those who hae a mole on the bac& of the nec&, it is my pleasure that my police officers, at the mere mention of such a man, feel their fists clenching. And it is li&ewise my pleasure that your sergeant ma=or weighs your merits by your s&ill in doing an about turn. $or had he the right to =udge for himself he

might condone your aw&wardness because you are a great poet. And li&ewise forgie the man beside you, because he is a paragon of irtue. And li&ewise with the man next after him, because he is a model of chastity. Thus =ustice would preail. 6ut now suppose that, on the battlefield, a swift and subtle feint, hinging on an about turn, is called for, then you will see my troops blundering into each other, hugger(

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them out* And much consolation will it be to the dying that their sergeant ma=or thin&s well of them* Therefore % send you bac& to your boards and plan&s, lest your loe of =ustice, operating where it is misplaced, lead one day to a useless

shedding of blood.3

In a nutshell, in the police or the army you gotta ha&e men about you that are good at doing about faces.

We ha&e learned in this booklong homily about pitying a beggar, about tearing down a palace, about how places ha&e meaning, and about the meaning of things. hese things we learned as the sands of wisdom poured through the hourglass of this book.

When the last grain of sand flowed past the neck of the

hourglass, the chieftain closed his homily to his son thus! $his morning I ha&e pruned my rose trees.$

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