Friday, December 18, 2009

An act too often neglected...

I've always been a fan of C. S. Lewis' portrayal of the Divine: as Something that is beautiful and wonderful, but also wild and sometime intimidating. Aslan is a lion, and, as a character points out in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, he's not a tame lion. Furthermore, not only is God great, but - as it would follow - we are small, mild, and quite timid in comparison.

My first point here is that I find the image of myself as a small creature before a great Lion very useful - it puts things into perspective on a day-to-day basis, and helps me remember how I truly relate to the rest of the universe.

This is leading up to my BIG point: that, in spite of all this, I'm still in love with Antoine de Saint-Exupery's idea of the human person as a wild creature that must be "tamed" by another human through the connection of love.

In The Little Prince, it is when the title character encounters a wild fox that Saint-Exupery presents his philosophy on the process of "taming". In the words of the fox, it is "'an act too often means to establish ties.'" Speaking to the Little Prince, he says: "'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...'" (pg. 66). How lovely!

Let's look, for a moment, at the dictionary definition of the adjective tame. The first definition offered on is "changed from the wild or savage state; domesticated". I think this is probably what comes to most people's minds at the word "tame" - we get an image of the caged bird, or the chained-up wolf - a creature that has been deprived of something; its freedom, perhaps?

But check out the second definition: tame means "without savageness or fear of humans normal in wild animals; gentle, fearless, or without shyness, as if domesticated". The tamed creature not only loses its wildness; it loses its fear of the person by whom it was tamed. Why? Because it has learned to trust that person. In a sense, then, are not tamed - trustful - creatures truly free? And aren't we (humans) just like wild animals when it comes to relationships? We've all been hurt by the hunters, with their bullets, lures and trappings; but we must allow the desire for intimacy to overcome the fear of injury if we wish to discover the Little Princes in the world.

There are days when I love to feel wild - especially in autumn, when the weather's usually at its most unruly and glorious. But, just like Max in Where the Wild Things Are, I wouldn't want to feel wild all the time; there's a sort of loneliness that inevitably accompanies wildness. I would hate to reach the end of my life and realize that I'd never been tamed.

Cited in this post: The Little Prince. Antoine de Saint-Exupery. Reynal & Hitchcock (New York): 1943.


  1. There is risk in every relationship, but it wouldn't be worth it if there wasn't. I love the fox's discussion of how the world would change for him if he let himself be tamed; a landscape which before was meaningless and unremarkable would become poignant because it reminded him of his friend. Things are bland when you play it too safe. Is fear the root of all wildness?

    Also, I love the references that you throw out...what if Max and The Little Prince met?

  2. Olivia.... this was so beautiful... you have such exquisite thoughts. Thank you for blessing my day with wonder!

  3. Lili - if Max and the Little Prince met...well, they should make a movie about it :)

    Becca - thank you so much! I'm so glad you enjoyed it :)