The Importance of Doing

There is an interesting lesson hidden within Le Petit Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry (one of my favourite children’s book of all time).

Wikipedia

In the story, the Little Prince visits a planet inhabited solely by a geographer. The geographer gets excited, thinking that the Little Prince is an explorer…

“Oh, look! Here is an explorer!” he exclaimed to himself when he saw the little prince coming.
The little prince sat down on the table and panted a little. He had already traveled so much and so far!
“Where do you come from?” the old gentleman said to him.
“What is that big book?” said the little prince. “What are you doing?”
“I am a geographer,” the old gentleman said to him.
“What is a geographer?” asked the little prince.
“A geographer is a scholar who knows the location of all the seas, rivers, towns, mountains, and deserts.”

This sounds great! The Little Prince has finally found someone who seemed to know a thing or two about something, unlike the previous people he had visited. Upon further inquiry though, the Little Prince discovers something about the geographer…

The geographer at his desk
“Your planet is very beautiful,” he said. “Has it any oceans?”
“I couldn’t tell you,” said the geographer.
“Ah!” The little prince was disappointed. “Has it any mountains?”
“I couldn’t tell you,” said the geographer.
“And towns, and rivers, and deserts?”
“I couldn’t tell you that, either.”
“But you are a geographer!”
“Exactly,” the geographer said. “But I am not an explorer. I haven’t a single explorer on my planet. It is not the geographer who goes out to count the towns, the rivers, the mountains, the seas, the oceans, and the deserts. The geographer is much too important to go loafing about. He does not leave his desk. But he receives the explorers in his study. He asks them questions, and he notes down what they recall of their travels.

In many ways, someone who spends too much time reading is like the geographer: ignorant of what is truly going on in the world around them, and lacking the experience that comes from actually exploring, and doing what one reads about in books.

References

The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry