By Lentus Ambulandus.
Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, best known for The Little Prince, was also a pioneering pilot who wrote award-winning books about flying. Between the wars, he flew for Aéropostale, the company of brave aviators charged with transporting “the mails” to some of the most inaccessible places in the world.
Early in his commercial career, he flew routes between France and west Africa, at a time when both flying and west Africa were at their heights of dodginess. Here’s a quote from Wind, Sand, and Stars. The author is preparing to risk his life by flying across the Pyrenees in less-than-favourable meteorological conditions. He has this to say about those who stay on the ground, working their desk job day in, day out:
Old bureaucrat, my comrade, it is not you who are to blame. No one ever helped you to escape. You, like a termite, built your peace by blocking up with cement every chink and cranny through which the light might pierce. You rolled yourself up into a ball in your genteel security, in routine, in the stifling conventions of provincial life, raising a modest rampart against the winds and the tides and the stars. You have chosen not to be perturbed by great problems, having trouble enough to forget your own fate as man. You are not the dweller upon an errant planet and do not ask yourself questions to which there are no answers. You are a petty bourgeois of Toulouse. Nobody grasped you by the shoulder while there was still time. Now the clay of which you were shaped has dried and hardened, and naught in you will ever awaken the sleeping musician, the poet, the astronomer that possibly inhabited you in the beginning.
Choose flight, not clay. Choose risk, not routine or genteel security. And if someone you love is in danger of becoming a termite, grasp them by the shoulder while there is still time, so that they might become a poet.