What inspires you? Nature, beauty, art, music, humanity, love?
For me, it’s the ocean. The comforting rhythm of waves as they slowly, patiently shape continents. The excitement of hearing water in motion. The moist air on my cheek as a thousand grains of sand give way ever so slightly beneath my feet. All my senses are awakened and fully engaged when I walk the beach. The vastness and wholeness of the experience encourages ideas and stories to flow. I literally swim in waves of inspiration.
But winter is coming and 2020 has been a tough year for inspiration. The restrictions of quarantine. The negativity of politics. The stress of a struggling global economy. How does one find inspiration amid such widespread chaos? I think many of us are struggling with this.
So I decided to do a little research, which always takes me on the most interesting journeys. I stumbled upon the work of Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, author of The Little Prince, the beloved children’s classic about a young prince who visits various planets, including Earth. The allegory explores themes of friendship, loneliness, love and loss. I had read the book several times as a child, but when I stumbled on some of its ideas today, they had new meaning:
“What makes the desert beautiful,” said the little prince, “is that somewhere it hides a well.”
I read this sentence several times—so much truth in so few words. Amazing! I wondered, what had inspired de Saint-Exupéry to write The Little Prince? What I discovered, surprised me…
In addition to being a gifted writer and poet, de Saint-Exupéry was also a pioneering French aviator. During an attempt to break the Paris-Saigon air race record, he and his navigator crashed in the Libyan desert. Both men miraculously survived, but were stranded with only a small amount of food and almost no water. They wandered around the desert for four days and nearly died. Then—wait for it—they stumbled upon a Bedouin who gave them water and took them back to safety. I mean, really, what are the odds?
The Little Prince begins with a pilot stranded in the desert after a plane crash. The story features themes from the hallucinations the author experienced during his brush with death in the desert. The author’s horrifying experience in the desert became his muse. It inspired him to write a beautiful, poignant, and timeless tale. More than 200 million copies of The Little Prince have been sold.
Needless to say, my personal narrative about inspiration has been flipped. I don’t need to go to the ocean to find inspiration, I just have to get over myself. If de Saint-Exupéry was inspired to write one of the most beloved tales of all time as a result of one of the most frightening experiences of his life, then certainly I can find inspiration somewhere in the chaos of 2020.
“The meaning of things lies not in the things themselves, but in your attitude towards them.” Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
So here I sit here at my computer, adjusting my attitude and the lens through which I see the world. Inspiration, it seems, is all around me. I just need to remember that “what makes the desert beautiful is that somewhere it hides a well.” Thank you Antoine de Saint-Exupéry. Point taken.