As a family we watched The Little Prince last night. It was released in France in July of last year and was supposed to have a US release this past March. For some reason it was dropped. Thank goodness, Netflix decided to run with it. If you watch only one more movie this year, make this the one.
The film is loosely based on Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s novella of the same name. In the movie, a little girl is being prepped by her mother to enter a prestigious academy whose motto is “Be essential.” In order to be close to the school, they move to a new neighborhood during the summer and the little girl starts her “Life Plan,” the regimen her mother has designed for her to be a successful student. As the mother works long hours, the little girl is left on her own to follow the Plan but gets derailed when she meets their eccentric neighbor. He is The Aviator, and he tells the story of his meeting with the Little Prince long years ago. The little girl falls in love with the story and is soon spending all her time with The Aviator. All is well until the little girl has to confront loss. Then, too, the encounter with loss allows the girl to grow in love. In order not to give the movie away, I’ll stop there.
A few points: I think the mother is not a “bad guy” in this story. She is trying to give her daughter everything by giving her the best education and the best plan to be a good adult. Sadly, in giving her daughter the best she can, she neglects to give her what she needs–a mother. I find this in myself. As a homeschooling mom, I want to make sure my kids are learning, and unfortunately, I feel like I have something to prove. So I, like the mother, tend to try to make sure my kids have the best education and the best opportunities and the best home life, etc. etc. etc. and forget to give them what they most need.
The academy’s motto, “Be essential,” is propagated in our society. Those who are not useful or contributing to society are not valued. The poor, the sick, the disabled, the elderly, the unborn. The Aviator is a disgrace to his neighbors. His house is ramshackle, his yard is full of weeds. He’s an untouchable. Even material things are not exempt from the motto. The non-essential items, like stars and bicycles and teddy bears, are put into a shredder and turned into something useful–paper clips. The Little Prince reminds us, though, that “It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye.”
Humans were not created to be useful. We were not created for work or efficiency or productivity. We were created by Love, for love. And that is all. Yes, we work, but our work does not define us. Yes, we produce, but we are not our productivity. The only thing we will be measured by, in the end, is our capacity to give and receive love. That is what is essential.