COURAGE

From Wind, Sand and Stars by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, of The Little Prince fame:

“What saves a man is to take a step. Then another step. It is always the same step, but you have to take it” (quoting his friend Henri Guillaumet, who flew the mail between Chile and Argentina and on Friday 13 June 1930, while crossing the Andes for the 92nd time, crashed his plane due to bad weather and walked for a week over three mountain passes before being rescued).

“Guillaumet was one among those bold and generous men who had taken upon themselves the task of spreading their foliage over bold and generous horizons. To be a man is, precisely, to be responsible. It is to feel shame at the sight of what seems to be unmerited misery. It is to take pride in a victory won by one’s comrades. It is to feel, when setting one’s stone, that one is contributing to the building of the world.

There is a tendency to class such men with toreadors and gamblers. People extol their contempt for death. But I would not give a fig for anybody’s contempt for death. If its roots are not suck deep in an acceptance of responsibility, this contempt for death is the sign either of an impoverished soul or of youthful extravagance.

I once knew a young suicide. I cannot remember what disappointment in love it was which induced him to send a bullet carefully into his heart. I have no notion what literary temptation he had succumbed to when he drew on a pair of white gloves before the shot. But I remember having felt, on learning of this sorry show, an impression not of nobility but of lack of dignity…

And when I heard of this meagre destiny, I remembered the death of a man. He was a gardener, and he was speaking on his deathbed: ‘You know, I used to sweat sometimes when I was digging. My rheumatism would pull at my leg, and I would damn myself for a slave. And now, do you know, I’d like to spade and spade. It’s beautiful work. A man is free when he is using a spade. And besides, who is going to prune my trees when I am gone?’

That man was leaving behind him a fallow field, a fallow planet. He was bound by ties of love to all cultivable land and to all the trees of the earth. There was a generous man, a prodigal man, a nobleman! There was a man who, battling against death in the name of his Creation, could like Guillaumet be called a man of courage!”

5 Replies to “COURAGE”

  1. Anonymous says: Reply

    This morning I am about to go out to my own small lush yard to pick and prune. This image of small steps as courage is just the inspiration I needed. I will be united to gardeners, trees and land doing my own little portion. Thank you, Heather!
    Donna

    1. HEATHER KING says: Reply

      Wonderful, Donna, I love that quote, too! Esp that it’s the SAME step we must continually take! Blessings to you and your lush yard…

  2. My family is full of toreadors and gamblers! I am quite proud of that.

    1. HEATHER KING says: Reply

      Ya damn well should be!!

      1. Very good food for thought…what am I leaving behind? I felt somewhat shallow reading the article… you make me think! My mom had a garden, composting, and I love that she did. I have a herb garden… would I care if no one took care of it if I don’t make it home? My husband started a garden, we can’t help but farm a bit,,, he cares very much for his plants. And prompted by my friend, I find myself content adding to a compost pile for good soil. Makes me feel like I’m feeding the whole earth. Silly, but not. Now I don’t feel so shallow.

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