Some passages from "Wind, Sand and Stars" and why I highlighted them

I just finished reading Antoine de Saint-Exupéry's Wind, Sand and Stars, a book I failed to penetrate on several previous attempts. Now I'm done, I enjoyed it, and I intend to reread it at some point, because I think there is much left to appreciate.

Here are the passages I highlighted in the book, in approximate order of appearance, with brief comments.

Each man must look to himself to teach him the meaning of life. It is not something discovered: it is something moulded.

Well, that's true.

The mail pouches for which he is responsible are stowed away in the after hold. They constitute the dogma of the religion of his craft, the torch which, in this aerial race, is passed from runner to runner.

A nice couple of metaphors, possibly reusable as kennings.

The central struggle of men has ever been to understand one another, to join together for the common weal. And it is this very thing that the machine helps them to do! It begins by annihilating time and space.

To me, in France, a friend speaks from America. The energy that brings me his voice is born of dammed-up waters a thousand miles from where he sits. The energy I burn up in listening to him is dispensed in the same instant by a lake formed in the River Yser which, four thousand miles from him and five hundred from me, melts like snow in the action of the turbines. Transport of the mails, transport of the human voice, transport of flickering pictures – in this century as in others our highest accomplishments still have the single aim of bringing men together. Do our dreamers hold that the invention of writing, of printing, of the sailing ship, degraded the human spirit?

Reminded me of Teilhard de Chardin.

Men who have given their lives to labors of love go straight to my heart.

Moi aussi, Antoine!

You, Bedouin of Libya who saved our lives, though you will dwell for ever in my memory yet I shall never be able to recapture your features. You are Humanity and your face comes into my mind simply as man incarnate. You, our beloved fellowman, did not know who we might be, and yet you recognized us without fail. And I, in my turn, shall recognize you in the faces of all mankind.

I thought it was funny that I had just installed the font Averia and was this was the first passage I read in it. If you follow the link you might see why.

Why should we hate one another? We all live in the same cause, are borne through life on the same planet, form the crew of the same ship. Civilizations may, indeed, compete to bring forth new syntheses, but it is monstrous that they should devour one another.

Reminded me of Buckminster Fuller.

And finally, this passage seemed to me, along with the first passage quoted above, with which it's in tension, to be near the core of the book:

Although we don’t yet know it, we are in search of a gospel to embrace all gospels, we are on the march towards a stormy Sinai…

If our purpose is to understand mankind and its yearnings, to grasp the essential reality of mankind, we must never set one man’s truth against another’s. All beliefs are demonstrably true. All men are demonstrably in the right. Anything can be demonstrated by logic. I say that that man is right who blames all the ills of the world upon hunchbacks. Let us declare war on hunchbacks-and in the twinkling of an eye all of us will hate them fanatically. All of us will join to avenge the crimes of the hunchbacks. Assuredly, hunchbacks, too, do commit crimes.

But if we are to succeed in grasping what is essential in man, we must put aside the passions that divide us and that, once they are accepted, sow in the wind a whole Koran of unassailable verities and fanaticisms. Nothing is easier than to divide men into rightists and leftists, hunchbacks and straightbacks, fascists and democrats – and these distinctions will be perfectly just. But truth, we know, is that which clarifies, not that which confuses. Truth is the language that expresses universality. Newton did not “discover” a law that lay hidden from man like the answer to a rebus.

He accomplished a creative operation. He founded a human speech which could express at one and the same time the fall of an apple and the rising of the sun. Truth is not that which is demonstrable but that which is ineluctable.

Watch this space for more passages from books I like.


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