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  • Writer's pictureNatalia Braun, MSc

“Watch Out For The Baobabs."

Updated: Dec 17, 2019

"It is lonely in the desert… It is lonely when you’re among people, too…"

Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

Recently I’ve met the Little Prince at one of those smart workshops. There were several fast introductions in a speed dating way. “Men have no time to understand anything,” he said. This fits very well into the nature of our time, when everything should be speedy. This became the synonym of efficient being in fact the synonym of superficial. Indeed, speed might be a helpful short-term pseudo-remedy for escaping reality, a baobab from the planet of the Little Prince.

“I’m a human being”, he introduced himself. The face of his counterpart didn’t show much excitement and understanding, but rather helplessness. Maybe they wanted to hear what they wanted to hear, what they were used to hear. A profession, a position, the higher, the better, family status, nationality, age, a number of years of experience… They were just human beings unconsciously trying to find refuge from uncertainty in their cognitive biases in order to simplify judging; biases or other baobabs from the planet of the Little Prince. "Before they grow so big, the baobabs start out by being little." But he didn’t want to pick a number and put it in front of his face in order to become easy understandable and predictable. And he didn’t really care. He said: “Words are the source of misunderstandings”.

“Everything should be measurable”, somebody said. “Really?” the Little Prince thought, “how?” In numbers, liters, spoons, fists, lives, feelings, satiety or something else? The palette is endless. To measure is another kind of uncertainty avoidance.

“Grown-ups like numbers. When you tell them about a new friend, they never ask questions about what really matters. They never ask: "What does his voice sound like?" "What games does he like best?" "Does he collect butterflies?" They ask: "How old is he?" "How many brothers does he have?" "How much does he weigh?" "How much money does his father make?" Only then do they think they know him.

If you tell grown-ups, "I saw a beautiful red brick house, with geraniums at the windows and doves on the roof," they won't be able to imagine such a house. You have to tell them, "I saw a house worth a hundred thousand francs." Then they exclaim, "What a pretty house!"

So if you tell them: "The proof the little prince's existence is that he was delightful, that he laughed, and that he wanted a sheep. When someone wants a sheep, that proves he exists," they shrug their shoulders and treat you like a child! But if you tell them, "The planet he came from is Asteroid B-612," then they'll be convinced, and they won't bother you with their questions. That's the way they are. You must not hold it against them. Children should be very understanding of grown-ups.

But, of course, those of us who understand life couldn't care less about numbers!” (Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, The Little Prince)

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