By Brian Sumner
On a very rainy day in Revelstoke, far from the heat of the Sahara Desert, in a small town with its own lamplighters, business men, geographers, kings and foxes The Little Prince dropped in on Saturday, February 7, and showed each of us a glimpse of a beautiful mind (our own!).
And how was this magic conjured? Well, take something simple like repairing an aircraft engine while dying of thirst in the Sahara, as Antoine de Saint-Exupery experienced in the last century. Mentally, that produced some special effects close to Russell Crowe’s delusions in the film A Beautiful Mind.
Add two talented fearlessly self-possessed young ladies; Avatars? Wise Fools? (often moving covertly or being dunked in rivers in earlier times?).
Mix with 200 childrens’ minds and a goodly helping of parents. Add a few grandparents for flavour (and don’t forget the spice from the invisible light and sound magicians, and I suspect a wizard as director).
And consult de Saint-Exupery’s recipe book The Little Prince.
Your rainy day magic cookies will be ready in a twinkle of the eye or a crazy Ozark fox song or an encounter with a ‘prickly prima donna ’ singing rose.
And what of the chefs? With so many adventures, de Saint-Exupery’s work is really a wizard’s pantry. Each mind drawn to different places, and each child’s mind finding the treats and sometimes the bitter tastes that touch their own genius for compassion and friendship — even with those who are sooo lost. And as the drama in the desert plays out these chefs know about the baker’s transformation — that the bread rises from the cosmic energy of the heart. (Or, as stated Wikipedia defines dynamic systems theory: the bilateral shift operator of a bi-infinite two-state lattice model).
In the written work, de Saint-Exupery’s initial annoyance at contending with this inquisitive Little Prince transforms into tenderness for him. We wonder which voice will rise to the surface in the dialogue between the conditioned worrying of an adult and the curious assertive inner child. Will it be a voice which intuitively understands basic sanity? And how can this possibly be enacted in a children’s play?
Well, while our two players are dancing in the land of trips, pushes, tricks, and puppets, and some clever made-in-Canada bilingual slapstick, it is easy to miss their beautiful minds in action seeing so much, appreciating so much.
We see the children take this play and transform it in their own ways, too. Two hundred beautiful minds dancing with a fox… can they tame him? Cherishing a rose… can they hold on in the face of the prickly? And so on… magic, magic, magic.
In complexity science we are urged to drop our Newtonian view of the world and attend at a micro-level where individuals join their energy and creativity in relationships. Is it strange that de Saint-Exupery, a refugee from Nazi-occupied France would wish to show this to children some 50 years before the ideas on how to see complex adaptive systems entered the organizational development literature?
And we adults — parents and grandparents who have nurtured our own roses, worried about our own volcanoes — contended with our own kings, geographers and lamplighters? Is it strange that we walk back out into the rain with our inner child smiling. A more real Little Prince or Princess in our heart? Or am I imagining it?
(Brian Sumner lives in Revelstoke but finds time to travel extensively inside his head.)