Responsibilities and obligations may be more significant duties than we often imagine. There are the typical responsibilities such as washing dishes after a meal and simple obligations like showing up for class on time-but there are also responsibilities toward one another and the crazy, giant world that we all inhabit. To explain this more in-depth, I must revert back to my favorite children’s book: The Little Prince, my go-to manifesto for life.
To provide some background on the tale, the part of the story that I am concerned with picks up when the little prince finds himself on Earth, where he meets a wise fox who explains the necessity of responsibility in relationships. The fox illustrates the importance of “taming” other people. By caring for and spending time with others through the ups and downs of life, and taking the time to experience their lived realities, the fox believes that we tame others. After this explanation, he states, “tu deviens responsable pour toujours de ce que tu as apprivoise“: you become responsible forever for what you have tamed. By investing time into his friend-the rose that the fox is referring to-on his home planet, the fox explains to the prince that what makes his relationship with the rose so valuable is the time that he sacrifices for her.
While it may seem puzzling, I believe that this exchange between a fictitious talking fox and a little boy holds much significance in illuminating larger themes about genuine responsibility in relationships. The fox challenges us to think about what, who, and how we have given love to the world, as well as how the relationships that we form determine what we give our hearts, minds, and lives to. What do you choose to give your heart to, and how does that bind you to a specific cause, person, or place? Often, we begin to feel a natural responsibility and attachment to places, people, or issues that we have invested either a lot of time or care.
Many times, we will experience a friendship that demands a lot of energy, and the intensity of the duty toward one another or a group may be overwhelming and cause some people to retreat. It is only when we recognize that inherent duty that we can take action in a variety of forms. Some may refer to this as being “ruined for life,” which is the idea that when people give their hearts out to the world to tame others or be tamed, they approach life in a completely fresh and altered way. After the little prince tames his rose by caring for her, suffering with her, and experiencing joy with her, he is, in a way, ruined for life because he can no longer see her as just an ordinary rose-she is now his rose, since he was the one who gave his heart and life out to her.
This could either be categorized as a lot of Jesuit-y, feel-good jargon or it could be profound insight on the value that could be put on human relationships. When we allow ourselves to give our hearts away, make connections, and invest in the lived realities of others around us, not only are we ruined for life and cannot see the world in the same way, but also we tame those people, places, and issues and bind ourselves to them. We tame them, and thus they become ours to care for with an everlasting bond.