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Literally Psyched

Literally Psyched


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Valentine’s Day on the planet of the Little Prince

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.


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The wedding book; image courtesy of Seth Fishman.

When my wonderful agent, Seth Fishman, got married this summer, he decided on one of the most original and thoughtful presents for his bride-to-be, Marget, that I had ever seen: a bound book of reflections on love from his friends and clients. He asked everyone to contribute whatever they would. A drawing, a word, a story. I took my inspiration from what I consider one of the greatest love stories of all time, that of the Little Prince and his rose.

To celebrate Valentine’s Day–and Seth and Marget’s first Valentine’s Day as a married couple!–I’ve decided to post the piece I wrote for the two of them (with permission, of course). Without further ado…

The Prince and The Rose

When I think of the greatest love story of all time, what comes to mind at once isn’t Romeo and Juliet or Antony and Cleopatra or Tristan and Isolde or any one of those famed couples whose fates have been told and retold many times over. I think instead of a much less conventional pair: the Little Prince and his rose. To me, Le Petit Prince will always be, above anything else, a love story. What love means. How it grows. What it takes to water and protect it so that it can keep blooming even with the fiercest of tigers, the strongest of wind currents, and the hungriest of lambs menacing it at every turn.

Before the rose arrives, the flowers on the Little Prince’s planet are all simple. They don’t stay long. They don’t bother anyone. One morning they are there, and one evening, gone. They don’t merit much more than a passing glance.

But from the second an unknown seed makes its way to his little world, everything changes. He somehow senses that what will emerge will be nothing short of miraculous, “une apparition miraculeuse.” And so it is. It’s difficult to do justice to that first meeting, those coy flirtations, that deepening of feeling that passes at some ineffable point from coquetry to love. Was it the wind current? The glass globe to protect the rose’s delicate petals from the sun? A gentle cough in the evening air?

The Little Prince leaves the rose to explore the world outside his planet. His feelings are too overwhelming, his melancholy, too great. He doesn’t know how to handle the new range of emotions that the rose has opened up. “I was too young to know how to love her…” he reflects.

But wherever he goes, the rose travels with him. All you need to be happy, he says, is to know that your rose is out there, somewhere. Then, when you look at the sky, you can’t help but smile.

The Little Prince, watching the sunset. Image credit: Creative Commons, Don Merwin Flickr photostream.

When the Little Prince realizes that there are other roses in the world, he is devastated. How could his flower not be unique? But the wise fox teaches him that no other rose is like his. And so, the Little Prince goes back to the rose garden and tells the other roses: “My rose alone is more important than all of you, because it is she that I watered. Because it is she that I put under the glass globe. Because it is she that I have sheltered behind the screen. Because it is for her that I killed all of the caterpillars (except the two or three for the butterflies). Because it is she that I have listened to, when she grumbled, or boasted, or even sometimes when she said nothing. Because she is my rose.”

And of course, there are those final words of the fox to the prince, as the young man makes up his mind to return to his planet, to reunite once more with the rose that has become his life. “One only sees well with the heart. The essential is invisible to the eye. It’s the time that you’ve spent on 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…”

It’s a love story for the ages.

Maria Konnikova About the Author: Maria Konnikova is a writer living in New York City. She is the author of the New York Times best-seller MASTERMIND (Viking, 2013) and received her PhD in Psychology from Columbia University. Follow on Twitter @mkonnikova.

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.





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