Monday, April 13, 2009

Quote of the Day (Saint-Exupery, Offering One of James Dean’s Favorite Quotes)

“It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye.”— Antoine de Saint-Exupery, The Little Prince 

This past weekend, I heard historian David McCullough cite this quote in a lecture broadcast on C-Span. It is a marvelous refutation of the materialist philosophy that dominated so much of the late 19th and 20th centuries—and which still bedevils us, in one form or another, today. 

 A few years ago, a PBS “American Masters” documentary, “James Dean: Sense Memories,” ended with a haunting recollection that the hugely influential Rebel Without a Cause actor loved this modern fable. In fact, only 900 feet from the site of his fatal car accident on Highway 46 East in California, this quotation is carved on a plaque erected by a fan in memory of Dean. 

The creator of one of the best-loved books of the last century, Antoine de Saint-Exupery was also one of the most heroic figures of WWII, fighting for the Resistance as a reconnaissance pilot—someone who had even pulled strings to get into the fighting when it appeared that his age and weight would sideline him. His 1944 disappearance on a mission long ranked as one of the most enduring mysteries of the aeronautical age. Speculation raged that he’d lost control of the plane, committed suicide, or been shot down. 

Last year, courtesy of a French diver, wreckage of his plane was recovered, seemingly confirming the last hunch—and bringing added guilt to a former Luftwaffe pilot who believed that he’d shot down the aviator author he’d idolized.

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