Today I walked down to my University’s Admissions building to retrieve a form for graduation for this spring semester. Yes, this is long overdue but that is not the point. The point is I am graduating in the Spring.
Image Two (How I feel about graduating)
As I stared my adulthood in the face, a friend texted me and told me to watch “The Little Prince” on Netflix. When I came home, I opted for further procrastination on packing up for the school year and watched this film… and then found an online text of the book.
This movie begins with a modern girl who is interviewing to get into a competitive prep school. She fails the interview. To still gain admission to the school, she moves to be in the respective school district. This girl and her mom move into one of those neighborhoods where every house is a copy of each other. But, next to their new home is an exquisite and intriguing home unlike any other. This is the home of the aviator. The aviator is quite old but develops a remarkably beautiful friendship with the little girl. As he introduces her to “The Little Prince”, the viewer can see the girl come alive in wonder of the adventures of the aviator and hope of a world unlike her own extremely narrow and rigid one.
Right from the beginning, I found myself already in the same shoes as the little girl. As she focused on her admittance and interviews to Werth Academy, I found myself suddenly also anxious about my future. The upcoming school year bears its share of hardships in the academic sphere and an ever busy schedule. Graduation looming over my head also puts an added pressure to have the next steps of my life figured out. The mother in this movie had planned out her daughter's whole summer on catching up academically so she could succeed in school. In their kitchen, the mother hung a huge board of exact times (down to ten minute increments) of what the little girl should be doing every second of the day with little magnets to move as the tasks were completed. As this scene flashed across my laptop screen, I looked down to my planner already filling up day by day for this coming school year.
As the mother said to the little girl pointing at her schedule, “This is you, this is your life”, I could not help but wondered how many times I have dug myself into that same thinking. How many times have I been so narrowly focused on my schedule, that I neglect the present moment. There is a reason why Hildebrand refers to living as an art and not a mere practice.
This is the mentality and world that pushed the little girl to finally admit, “I’m not so sure I want to grow up anymore”. In the face of her world seeming to expand as she ages, the little girl realizes she will not reach fulfillment in her current setting. She is in a place where the pressure is building up so much on herself that even when she desires to play with a friend her mother says maybe next summer and only every other Thursday for half an hour. The demand of the modern world sets individual people immediately against community. This demand is what I fear in graduating.
This isolation is disguised as success by modern man. If you can be the most successful at what you do, have whatever new possession it may be and the best of it, and are happy with yourself then you have succeeded at life. This mentality eliminates the possibility of community because it is irrelevant in the goal of such success. In the LifeGuide, Dietrich von Hildebrand says, “The true measure of the depth of man will much rather be found in whether or not he is awakened to that spirit of true communion, in whether or not there has been a breaking-down of the inner walls of self-assertion, in the defenses of the sphere of the ego” (50). It is impossible to live this full life without reaching beyond one’s isolation into community. Asserting one’s own desires or successes over others may help in the aim of graduation but will never gain authentic fulfillment.
One of the most profound moments of this movie for me was when the Little Prince and Aviator are in Africa together and the Little Prince looks around at the barren desert and asks the aviator why it is so lonely in Africa. The aviator replies that it is because it is lonely in the hearts of men. This is what is at stake this school year. We have the choice to perpetuate a lifestyle that will continue well past graduation. We can continue to close in on ourselves in the face of others. Or, we can welcome one another with gratitude and reverence. Hopefully, this year will be one where if the Little Prince were to come to my university he would not declare here too it is lonely in the hearts of men.