Excerpt from an article published by the Scientific American Blog Network. The article is by the impressive Maria Konnikova, and parts of it were adapted from a book due out in 2013.
In Saint-Exupéry’s world, the adults seem the absurd ones, going nowhere quickly and persisting stubbornly in mindless pursuits – even when they no longer have any idea of why they pursue them. And it’s from the petit gentilhomme, as the narrator terms him, and from his guileless friends, the fox and the rose, that we get any sense of wisdom, of what is and is not important, of the questions that are worth asking—and the ones that aren’t.
The juxtaposition is necessarily exaggerated (we are in the realm of fable, after all). But Saint-Exupéry’s larger point about creativity and thought is difficult to overstate: as we age, how we see the world changes. It is the rare person who is able to hold on to the sense of wonderment, of presence, of sheer enjoyment of life and its possibilities that is so apparent in our younger selves. As we age, we gain experience. We become better able to exercise self-control. We become more in command of our faculties, our thoughts, our desires. But somehow, we lose sight of the effortless ability to take in the world in full. The very experience that helps us become successful threatens to limit our imagination and our sense of the possible. When did experience ever limit the fantasy of a child?