Are you familiar with the classic novella, The Little Prince, the most famous work of the French aristocrat, writer, poet, and pioneering aviator Antoine de Saint-Exupéry (1900–1944)?
If you do, then, it must be easy for you to recall how the Little Prince met the fox and how their conversation went. But in case you find it hard to recall, here, let me refresh your memory, though, pardon me if I skip some lines just to drive home my point:
“Come and play with me,” proposed the Little Prince. “I am so unhappy.”
“I cannot play with you,” the fox said. “I am not tamed.”
“Ah! Please excuse me,” said the Little Prince. But, after some thought, he added: “What does that mean — ‘tame’?”
* * *
“It is an act too often neglected,” said the fox. “It means to establish ties."
“‘To establish ties’?”
“Just that,” said the fox. “To me, you are still nothing more than a little boy who is just like a hundred thousand other little boys. And I have no need of you. And you, on your part, have no need of me. To you, I am nothing more than a fox like a hundred thousand other foxes. But if you tame me, then we shall need each other. To me, you will be unique in all the world. To you, I shall be unique in all the world...”
“Please--tame me!” said the fox.
“I want to, very much,” the Little Prince replied. “But I have not much time. I have friends to discover, and a great many things to understand.”
“One only understands the things that one tames,” said the fox. “Men have no more time to understand anything. They buy things already made at the shops. But there is no shop anywhere where one can buy friendship, and so men have no friends any more. If you want a friend, tame me...”
“What must I do, to tame you?” asked the Little Prince.
“You must be very patient,” replied the fox. “First you will sit down at a little distance from me – like that – in the grass. I shall look at you out of the corner of my eye, and you will say nothing. Words are the source of misunderstandings. But you will sit a little closer to me, every day...”
* * *
To drive home my point, let’s follow the lines above in bold letters.
I know of not a few friends who have grown “so unhappy” with what’s going on in our society this post-election period. But I have my little reflection and a theory of what’s going on. When the players are not friends, no game is possible. “I cannot play with you,” the fox said. “I am not tamed.”
To tame means “to establish ties”. But sad to say, in our country, “it is an act too often neglected,” said the fox. Why do you think?
“I want to, very much, but I have not much time,” said the Little Prince. “I have friends to discover, and a great many things to understand.” What an irony! In our desire to have friends and to understand many great things, we often neglect the most important ingredient: the art of taming.
“One only understands the things that one tames,” said the fox. “If you want a friend, tame me...” The fox is actually giving us a hint – the key to what we are looking for. If we are looking for friendships – and collaboration, solidarity, harmonious relationship, teamwork, healing and reconciliation, etc. – we should learn the art of taming. Do you really want to understand “a great many things”? Remember the wisdom of the fox: you only understand the things that you tame!
If you want to learn the art of taming, “you must be very patient,” said the fox. You must learn when and how “to say nothing” for “words are the source of misunderstandings.”
So, what do you think we need most this post-election period? I think we need to learn how to tame each other.
* * *
Last year, Pope Francis reminded the Italian bishops, during the opening of their Annual General Assembly in Vatican, “to act more like pastors than ‘pilots’ telling the faithful what to do… In reality, laypeople who have an authentic Christian formation do not need a ‘bishop-pilot’ or a ‘monsignor-pilot’ or clerical input to assume their responsibilities at every level from the political to the social, from the economic to the legislative. Instead, they need a ‘bishop-pastor’,” the Pope explained.
I think, a “bishop-pastor” should know how to tame the sheep (or the fox). What do you think?
Cogito, 28 May 2016