“Life has taught us that love does not consist in gazing at each other but in looking outward together in the same direction.” – Antoine Saint-Exupery, Wind, Sand and Stars
This quote from one of my favourite French authors/writers is one that I find most extraordinary. Antoine Saint-Exupery is probably best known for his childrens literature entitled Le Petit Prince, or in English, The Little Prince. A childrens book that is probably so much deeper than one realizes but it indeed is. If you haven’t read it, I suggest you take a look. Having read it in both the translated English (which isn’t too bad tbh) and also in the French (thanks goes to my Grade 12 French teacher, Mrs. Robertson) I must say that is goes far beyond what you would expect.
Anyways, back to this quote :P. This quote is taken from his biography that Antoine wrote in the 1930s (just before his disappearance in 1944) entitled Wind, Sand and Stars. Though, I haven’t read this book (yet) I have taken a look at bits and pieces of it. In particular, this quotation strikes me as a very important piece of advice that anyone could take into account (and should).
At first glance, one would easily pick out the meaning. I’ve heard a few interpretations. Some people say that Saint-Exupery was merely saying that love isn’t about appearances, hence the “gazing at each other” and that it is more about looking forward or moving forward. Others suggest that it is more about working together to move forward rather than “butting heads” and facing off against each other.
Though both of these are valid interpretations, I’d rather look at it another way. The way, I believe, Saint-Exupery intended it to be seen. If I have learned one thing in my 20 years (coming up to 21 soon ;)) of living, it’s that one must always check the context of what one is reading/looking at. In this case, I decided that I would look at the English translation (all his books are in French) of the quote along with the surrounding paragraph. With a bit of luck, the book was located in my University’s library (along with online PDFs) so I’ll paste the whole section here.
No man can draw a free breath who does not share with other men a common and disinterested ideal. Life has taught us that love does not consist in gazing at each other but in looking outward together in the same direction. There is no comradeship except through union in the same high effort. Even in our age of material well-being this must be so, else how should we explain the happiness we feel in sharing our last crust with others in the desert? No sociologist’s textbook can prevail against this fact. Every pilot who has flown to the rescue of a comrade in distress knows that all joys are vain in comparison with this one. And this, it may be, is the reason why the world today is tumbling about our ears. It is precisely because this sort of fulfilment is promised each of us by his religion, that men are inflamed today. All of us, in words that contradict each other, express at bottom the same exalted impulse. What sets us against one another is not our aims-they all come to the same thing-but our methods, which are the fruit of our varied reasoning.
A few read-throughs of that paragraph will make his intent very clear. What Saint-Exupery was really talking about was how people love those who share the same vision as them.
This becomes almost 100% apparent once you read the quote again. Saint-Exupery was jsut saying that those people who love one another have to share the same goals, the same “effort”, the same “ideals”. He talks a great deal about comradeship, or comraderie and specifically between pilots. This it because Saint-Exupery is actually a pilot himself. There is a great story in his biography about where he was lost in a desert with a co-pilot after they crash landed. Amazingly they survived and I think this experience lended itself to what he’s writing here.
Recently, I was able to experience this sort of love that he talks about when I was dating a friend. I can say, that in many ways we certainly “gazed at each other” but in many more we looked outward together. Unfortunately, for reasons I won’t disclose (tbh it’s hard to understand) the relationship ended about a month ago. And it’s been rough, but what makes it even harder is this quote. To know that we had so much “outward looking” troubles me every day. Maybe I’m just some sort of manic depressive or someone who just can’t give up. All I know is that everytime I think of her, I think of all the outward looking. I think of everything we had going for us. Of course I think of the bad stuff too, but it doesn’t seem to compare.
I’m sorry, I probably shouldn’t rant about this. Not my place to really talk about it. So I’ll just end this here. Hope you all are having a good day/week/month/year, cause tbh, the last month (for me) has been a battle and a half.