27. June 2014 · Comments Off on The Little Prince · Categories: NM. Princes and Kings

Liam asks, do you mind if we do some shopping before we go to dinner?

I know they work resident doctors like serfs.   Liam never has enough time.

What do you need to buy?

I have a patient at the hospital.  He is ten years old.  He is dying from cancer of the bone.  He doesn’t have anyone.   Other boys in the ward have radios.   More than anything, he wants a radio of his own.   I want to buy him one.

I am reminded of the Little Prince whom no one could save.

I first heard of the Little Prince when I was at Grailville.  One day, someone calls me to a room behind the assembly hall and hands me a bunch of red clothes.   Change into these quickly, she says, and leave your shoes off.

You are going to dance the part of a fox.  Anne is going to dance the part of the Little Prince.  I have never heard of the Little Prince.   What is the scene about?

Never mind, she says, Cay will read, and you improvise whatever comes to mind.  Just remember that you are the fox.

Someone is playing the piano.   It is Father Vitry.  There he is in the corner, improvising.   Cay is at the podium.  The audience is packed with priests and seminarians, all here for the weekend because of Father Vitry’s celebrity.   They sit in a large semi-circle, with people in the front row sitting cross-legged on the floor.

You’re on!   I move into the open space.   I see Anne on the other side, a crumpled, dejected Little Prince.

Good morning, said the fox. I am the fox.  There is the little boy.  A strange thing happens.  As I hear the words, and the soft music, gestures just come naturally, from somewhere.  I become the fox.  I can feel it.  I love this!

The fox teaches the Little Prince rituals for taming him and becoming his friend.

The Little Prince comes alive, the audience is drawn in.   It is all of one piece, as though we had choreographed everything, including the audience.  The fox is tamed, love is in the air.   The audience is wildly applauding.

No one is more amazed than I at how it all turned out. Afterwards, Father Vitry asks me, how old are you?  I am seventeen.   He says, at seventeen it is all about romance.

Later they ask Anne and me to try to reproduce the performance.  It doesn’t work.   It was a one- time happening, when everything spontaneously came together.

I did not get the book and read the rest of the story.  I want to remember this experience as a transcendent moment in itself.

People speak about The Little Prince as the best and most inspiring of Antoine Saint-Exupery’s books.  I am shocked when I overhear a young man say, I hate that book!

We are at a party, and it is hardly the atmosphere for a serious discussion.   Still, I have to ask him why.

The story is pathetic, he says.   It is about a prince who won’t grow up and who hates adults so much that he kills himself.   Where is his father, the king?  If I had a son, I wouldn’t let him read such a downer.  Have you read it?  I admit that I have not.

I didn’t even know The Little Prince is a tragedy.  It is like King Lear before there is even a chance to be king.   It is the cold night sneaking in so early in sheep’s clothing that it is not even recognized, never mind railed against.


thisColdnight– King Lear by William Shakespeare


The Little Prince escapes from earth by joining a flight of birds.  He finds a tiny planet for himself.   But he falls back to earth.


Little Prince GilroyThe Little Prince oil on linen by James Gilroy


He chooses to leave again, this time with the help of a snake who injects him with deadly venom.   The fox offers wise words and the promise of love.   What good are promises when you go up against the power of venom and the seductive, instant wipe-out pain killer oblivion?

Day after day, Liam goes into the operating room to do bloody battle with death.  He likes it more than anything, especially when he wins.   Sometimes, death wins a battle, but never the war.

I believe that one day, because of fighters like Liam, and maybe even fairy tale foxes, death as we know it, shall be no more.    The time will come when death itself will be low-tech, outdated, and not useful to anyone.

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