A few years back, while wandering the wintry wastelands of Quebec (which are really quite nice in the summer), I stumbled upon a book called Le Petit Prince (in English, The Little Prince, in case you didn't figure that out). For those of you unfamiliar with this literary masterpiece, it's children's book written by Antione de Saint-Exupery in 1943. While it's written in language that children could understand and illustrated with awesome watercolor paintings by the author, it's actually quite a profound piece of literature.
I've read this book numerous times; the first while I was on my mission, the most recent being last summer. In fact, I was really close to buying this book for all my friends for Christmas last year; alas, my college student poverty prevented me. The last time I read it, a certain point the author makes really stuck out to me, and it's been on my mind ever since.
The story is about a young prince who is the sole inhabitant of a planet roughly the size of a house -- essentially an asteroid. One day he notices a small plant growing on the surface of his planet. He watches it and looks after it and eventually it grows into a beautiful rose. And even though the rose treats him badly, he falls in love with her and takes care of her.
But one day, enough is enough and the little prince leaves his flower. He travels from planet to planet until he finally reaches Earth.
He spends quite some time wandering the expanses of the Sahara Desert until one day he stumbles upon a garden of roses. Here is his reaction:
Not long after, the little prince meets a fox. Desperate for companionship, the prince seeks to befriend the fox.
And he was overcome with sadness. His flower had told him that she was the only one of her kind in all the universe. And here were five thousand of them, all alike, in one single garden!
"I thought that I was rich, with a flower that was unique in all the world; and all I had was a common rose."
And he lay down in the grass and cried.
The fox goes on to explain that the taming process -- the process of forming a relationship or friendship -- takes time and patience. Slowly the prince and the fox become good friends and the prince learns what it means to tame someone. Just before continuing his journey, the fox recommends that the prince visit the bed of roses before he leaves.
"Come and play with me," proposed the little prince. "I am so unhappy."
"I cannot play with you," the fox said. "I am not tamed."
"What does that mean-- 'tame'?"
"It is an act too often neglected," said the fox. "It means to establish ties."
"'To establish ties'?"
"Just that," said the fox. "To me, you are still nothing more than a little boy who is just like a hundred thousand other little boys. And I have no need of you. And you, on your part, have no need of me. To you, I am nothing more than a fox like a hundred thousand other foxes. But if you tame me, then we shall need each other. To me, you will be unique in all the world. To you, I shall be unique in all the world..."
"I am beginning to understand," said the little prince. "There is a flower... I think that she has tamed me..."
OK, I'm finally getting to my point, to the questions that have been on my mind since the last time I read this book.
The little prince went away, to look again at the roses.
"You are not at all like my rose," he said. "As yet you are nothing. No one has tamed you, and you have tamed no one. You are like my fox when I first knew him. He was only a fox like a hundred thousand other foxes. But I have made him my friend, and now he is unique in all the world."
And the roses were very much embarassed.
"You are beautiful, but you are empty," he went on. "One could not die for you. To be sure, an ordinary passerby would think that my rose looked just like you-- the rose that belongs to me. But in herself alone she is more important than all the hundreds of you other roses: because it is she that I have watered; because it is she that I have put under the glass globe; because it is she that I have sheltered behind the screen; because it is for her that I have killed the caterpillars (except the two or three that we saved to become butterflies); because it is she that I have listened to, when she grumbled, or boasted, or ever sometimes when she said nothing. Because she is my rose.
With this point, I agree with the author: that many of the relationships and friendships we have in life are founded and based upon the time and experiences we share with one another.
Here's where I'm not so sure what to think. The author is arguing that the reason why the prince's rose was so important -- ultimately the reason why he loved her -- was because he tamed her. In other words, he loved her simply because of the time he spend with her.
So here's my question(s): in regards to relationships, specifically in regards to love, what portion of a relationship is based on things like physical attraction and common interest, and what portion is based on the time two people spend together? Furthermore, does something like common interest matter in a relationship? Could a relationship survive if the only real thing they have in common is a desire to make it work? Why or why not? In the same vein, where is the fine line between settling and accepting?