20 April 2013


Locus Focus: Take Eighty-Nine!

This month's theme is In Space, No One Can Hear You Blog, and so far, we've visited another planet (if only in our dreams) and felt claustrophobic in a space ark.

Today's setting is from the novel that pretty much all my friends named when I asked each of them: "Can you name a book with an outer space setting?" We're clearly not the biggest readers of SF in the world . . .

Asteroid B-612
The Little Prince
by Antoine de Saint-Exupery

Now there were some terrible seeds on the planet that was the home of the little prince; and these were the seeds of the baobab. The soil of that planet was infested with them. A baobab is something you will never, never be able to get rid of if you attend to it too late. It spreads over the entire planet. It bores clear through it with its roots. And if the planet is too small, and the baobabs are too many, they split it in pieces . . .

"It is a question of discipline," the little prince said to me later on. "When you've finished your own toilet in the morning, then it's time to attend to the toilet of your planet, just so, with the greatest care. You must see to it that you pull up all the baobabs, at the very first moment when they can be distinguished from the rose bushes which they resemble so closely in their earliest youth . . ."

Well, who said that a featured outer space setting had to come from a Science Fiction novel? =P

The little prince's planet--no more than an asteroid, really--is hardly a realistic creation. It is, however, an endearing allegory. Have you ever thought about what your life would look like if it had to fit into an area of half a kilometre square? Would you take up all the space with an ermine-lined ego so that there is no room for anyone else? Or might a lone lamp post, having convinced you of its importance, take up all your time? If you're lucky, your life will be like the little prince's asteroid. On his home, there are always baobab bushes to pull up and volcanoes to clean--but normal life is full of responsibilities like that.

But these features of the landscape are ultimately dwarfed in significance by a single rose. And although the subtext suggests that he departs partly to get away from her petty, demanding ways, having left her, he finds that he cannot call any other planet home because she is not on any of them.

The idea of having a "home planet" or of longing "to return" to a distant star is often indulgent. Put down roots where you're planted, I say, and bloom . . . even if you have to die trying. =P Yet it's also true that once we have tamed something, we earn not just responsibility for it, but also a longing to be with it. And where responsibility and longing come together, you have a good, strong rock for building that unique-in-the-universe setting known as home.

Question of the Week: What is the rose that keeps calling you back to your home planet?

Image Source: The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupery


Sheila said...

I read your question, and I thought for a second of the house that I live in, the babies in it that obviously keep me rather tied down.

And then I almost instantly saw mountains in my minds' eye and was terribly homesick. I've reassured everyone I know that I don't ever intend to move back to the Northwest, that I've put down some roots here on the east coast and I mean to stay, but ...

There are many things not to like about my home state. I don't like the laws, there are very few Catholics, and the overall attitude of people is not something I share, but ... the mountains. The fresh fresh air. The rain. The trees. The miles and miles of virgin forest. There is no such THING as virgin land here; it's all been under the plow at some point. And I don't mind that per se; it's beautiful here and I love it and I have a good chance of actually being able to farm and live out my dreams here .... but I guess I've come to the realization that I will never, ever wake up in the morning and not have a little wish for the place I grew up in.

Gulp, now you've made me all melancholy. The Little Prince is a great book though. I've read it a dozen times.

Enbrethiliel said...


Oh, that breaks my heart a little. =(

I've only been truly homesick once: my first week in New Zealand when I thought I'd rather be a homeless beggar in the Philippines than remain stranded in such a strange foreign land. I cried so hard that the first friends I made liked to tease me about it for the next two years. And at the end of those two years, it was easy to make the decision to come back home.

But there are times, late at night, when I find myself longing for the chill of a New Zealand winter--or more often, at totally random times, craving an "authentic" order of takeaway fish and chips.

Thoughts like this remind me of C.S. Lewis's vision of Heaven at the end of The Last Battle. In it can be found every place on earth you have ever loved, appearing exactly the way it was when you loved it. Whether or not it works theologically, I think it works emotionally. I feel great longing for Heaven as I type this . . . which means you now have some company in the Melancholy Club.

The Little Prince is an old favourite of mine, but I had to buy a new copy in order to write this post. I gave my old copy to a good friend after surprised me by saying she had never read it. That was way back in . . . New Zealand. Sigh!

Sheila said...

Wow, you ARE like me ... I miss Rome, where I studied, I miss Rhode Island, where I was incredibly miserable -- I even miss Bermuda, where I went on a one-week vacation. I really want to visit Ireland someday, but I'd be afraid to do it because I know me, and I know I wouldn't want to leave. It would end up being one more place for me to miss.

But you're right, it's part of our longing for heaven, and I do think heaven has room for that kind of thing. I mean, we ARE human, the joy we will have isn't going to be some inhuman, incomprehensible kind. And after the last judgment, we'll have our bodies, and why except to enjoy things like that? We aren't brains in a jar, we're made to have eyes and ears and emotions; it's part of our nature to care about places, so I think those will be there.

That's my theological opinion, anyway. Meanwhile I guess we just have to be the Melancholy Club.

Enbrethiliel said...


Oh, gosh! You're reminding me that I miss California, too--and I was only there for a grand total of four months of my life. =(

I'll start silk screening the club t-shirts now . . .

Belfry Bat said...

Rome was superb. Must do that again, some day. But I don't miss Paris or Turkey, or Heathrow Transit Terminal...

Enbrethiliel said...


It was probably not the best idea to reveal you've been to Rome, Bat, because now I'm going to ask you to review my jet-ski story. =P