Rien n’est parfait  by Barbara Ardinger


What le renard teaches le petit prince is that when people tame each other, they spend time together and get to know each other. It’s not power-over, but power-with. We become important to each other…. The world is made more sacred. That’s what we pagans and good, honorable people in the other religions who talk to each other without preaching are doing.

In Le Petit Prince (The Little Princeby the French writer and aviator Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, the little prince takes advantage of the migration of wild birds to leave his home, the tiny Asteroid B 612, because he running away from a vain and fickle rose. After he arrives on earth, he sees a whole garden of roses, and it breaks his heart because he thought his rose was unique in all the world. When he returns to the desert where he originally landed, he meets le renard, a very wise fox. The fox tells the prince that they should “tame” each other. “Apprivoise-moi,” he says, “tame me. Let us create ties so that we know each other.”[i] 

As they continue to talk, the fox remarks, “My life is boring. I chase chickens and men chase me. The prince says he came from another planet. “Another planet?” asks the fox.

Oui,” says the little prince.

Il y a des chasseurs, sur cette planete-la? Are there hunters on your planet?”

Non.”

Ça, c’est intéressant! Et des poules? How interesting! Are there chickens?”

Non.”

And so the fox sighs. “Rien n’est parfait. Nothing is perfect.”

As I’ve been reading the blogs posted on this site and reading in the papers about the religious right’s war on women, le renard’s comment keeps coming to mind. We who blog together on Feminism and Religion have sort of tamed each other. We read each other’s blogs. We’re friendly. We’re not hunting each other. In a sense, by putting our philosophies in writing and asking questions, we’re trying to create a perfect world. Or at least a corner of semi-perfection in an imperfect world. But still, as le renard says, Rien n’est parfait.

I believe that the world’s religions are highly imperfect. All of them. Even mine. First, I don’t understand why people think a god picked up a quill pen one day a few millennia ago and wrote a holy book. If that god were writing today, would the holy book be written on a PC or a Mac? Would he be sending text messages to his followers? Would he write OMG? In reference to himself? If he texted, I’m sure his message would be just about as incomprehensible as some of the holy writ I’ve read. (And, yes, even though I’m a pagan, I have studied comparative religion and I’ve read the Bible. The whole thing. Several times. And other holy books, too.) Did that god sit down at his heavenly desk and dictate his rules and stories to a male secretary? To me, that sounds hallucinatory on the part of the amanuensis. If a man or a committee of men wrote the book, let them admit they did it. The holy books aren’t perfect. They’re quasi-historical documents written by men with agendas to push. Are there any holy books written by women beyond Elizabeth Cady Stanton’s Woman’s Bible, first published in 1895?

Second, I don’t understand a god or men who are either so enticed or so enraged by the sight of a woman’s hair or skin that they make the women cover themselves up. I don’t understand why this is called modesty. Nor do I understand why women are kept at home and why some very conservative men get to pray all day while their women do all the work to support the household. It says in the gospels that Jesus treated women with respect. They were his first disciples. So why can’t women be priests or imams? Why are nuns considered lower than priests? If you want to see an example of this inequality, watch the movie Doubt  and pay attention to the dinner scene where the women are trying to chew gristle and drinking water, whereas the priests are eating prime rib and drinking wine. Rien n’est parfait. The Southern Baptists took women out of the pulpits a couple decades ago, and until recently, women couldn’t be rabbis, either. It wasn’t until the middle of the last century that men decided that women have souls. Rien n’est parfait.

We pagans don’t have any holy books, not even the leaves written by Cumaean Sibyl that were blowin’ in the Roman wind. (She put them outside her cave so they would blow away.) We have the Charge of the Goddess, which was probably written by Gerald Gardner in the 1950s and exists in several versions. Here’s a little bit of it: Let my worship be within the heart that rejoices, for behold, all acts of love and pleasure are my rituals. Therefore, let there be beauty and strength, power and compassion, honor and humility, mirth and reverence within you. Doesn’t sound much like Deuteronomy, does it. We pagans also lack a pope or chief prophet. We don’t even have a popess or a high prophetess. Our so-called authorities are ordinary people who write books, create rituals, and lead workshops that teach the lore of the Goddess and the old gods. It’s said that we modern pagans are born rebels (moi?) and more or less make up our thealogy as we go along. What’s wrong with that? Is theology required to be parfait?

What le renard teaches le petit prince is that when people they spend time together and get to know each other, they’re taming each other. It’s sharing, it’s not power-over, but power-with. We become important to each other, and even things around us—like the golden wheat that reminds the fox of the boy’s hair—become significant to us. The world is made more sacred. That’s what we pagans and good, honorable people in the other religions who talk to each other without preaching are doing.

Like our sisters and brothers in other religions and especially those who study the New Age paradigms, we’re great borrowers. We find holy writing everywhere, even in so-called children’s books like Le Petit Prince. After all, if you know enough about metaphysics, you can find meaning anywhere. So let’s look at another lesson taught by le renard.

Before they part, the fox shares his most important secret with the boy. Voici mon secret. Il est très simple: on ne voit bien qu’avec le coeur. L’essential est invisible pour les yeux. “Here is my secret. It’s very simple: we don’t see well except with our heart. What is essential is invisible to the eyes.”

The outward things we see are not perfect. They’re some of the very things I’ve just been complaining about in the standard-brand religions. Rien n’est parfait.

So what is perfect in the world? What can we make perfect? Tiny things. Things that are invisible to the eye but felt in the heart. Loving-kindness. Courtesy. Understanding. The fox says, C’est le temps que tu as perdu pour ta rose qui fait ta rose si importante. “It’s the time you’re spent with your rose that makes her so important.” I translate this as spending time with each other, as being present with each other. We in the FAR community are present with each other as we read each other’s blogs and comment on them. We’re present as we talk to people in our communities and tell them that we’re writing these blogs.

If you love Le Petit Prince as I do, you can see it on DVD. Lerner and Lowe wrote the score for a movie version starring Richard Kiley as the aviator, Donna McKechnie as the rose, Gene Wilder as the fox, and Bob Fosse as the snake. It’s not, alas, their best work, but you can see the whole story of the aviator’s crash in the desert and his meeting with the little prince. There’s also a wonderful children’s opera with beautiful music by Rachel Portman.


[i] I’m reading and quoting from the same copy of the book I read in my high school French class. Le Petit Prince, avec les dessins de l’auteur.Paris: Editions Gallimard, 1946. I’ve owned this book for more than 50 years and also used it when I taught high school French in the 1960s.

Barbara Ardinger, Ph.D. (www.barbaraardinger.com), is a published author and freelance editor. Her newest book is Secret Lives, a novel about grandmothers who do magic.  Her earlier nonfiction books include the daybook Pagan Every Day, Finding New Goddesses (a pun-filled parody of goddess encyclopedias), and Goddess Meditations.  When she can get away from the computer, she goes to the theater as often as possible—she loves musical theater and movies in which people sing and dance. She is also an active CERT (Community Emergency Rescue Team) volunteer and a member (and occasional secretary pro-tem) of a neighborhood organization that focuses on code enforcement and safety for citizens. She has been an AIDS emotional support volunteer and a literacy volunteer. She is an active member of the neopagan community and is well known for the rituals she creates and leads.



Categories: Ethics, Fiction, General, Thealogy, Theology

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9 replies

  1. I also don’t understand why the life and death of one man, Jesus, should be the paradigm for all time. Sure Jesus said and did some good things, and perhaps also had some crazy ideas, like that the son of man was about to come down from heaven on the clouds. Martin Luther King said and did some good things too, so did Gandhi, so did Elizabeth Cady Stanton, so did Mathida Joslyn Gage. All of them had their flaws, but why shouldn’t we be looking to all of them instead of singling out one fairly good man and calling him the only messiah and the only model? As I said in response to another post, once I stepped off that particular merrygoround, I never needed to get back on it. And now the fixation on one man whose life isn’t even certain makes no sense at all to me. So what if Jesus said it or did it. With or without him, we must decide what we must say and do.

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  2. Thank you for having me on your list of recipients announcing your work. I enjoyed this very much. I now must go back and read it again! Deanne – Bendis

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  3. Great post, funny and wise.

    But, especially in a feminist blog, let’s attribute The Charge of the Goddess to its true author – not Gerald Gardner but Doreen Valiente.

    And yes, I agree with you about holy writing in Children’s literature. There’s quite a lot of goddess-related children’s fantasy nowadays. But my first connection to the goddess, other than in myths, came – though I only realised it as an adult – in Charles Kingsley’s The Water Babies (the full version, not abridged ones or the film) and in George Macdonald’s The Princess and the Goblin (both are Victorian British writers whose books are still in print).

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  4. You’re right, of course–it was Doreen. My bad. Love those Victorian writers. How about Puck of Pook’s Hill? Edwardian is good, too. Thanks for your comment. I’m honored that you took the time to read my blog.

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  5. Oh, I love Kipling, especially Puck of Pook’s Hill, Rewards and Fairies, and Kim.

    He was at times a nasty imperialist, but also had a genuine love for India and itspeople.

    Auden put it well:

    Time that is intolerant
    And indifferent in a week
    To a beautiful physique
    Worships Language and forgives
    Evertone by whom it lives

    Time, that with this strange excuse,
    Pardones Kipling and his views,

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    • Do you know the movie, The Man Who Would Be King? Christopher Plummer plays Kipling. That’s the face I see when I think of the poet.

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  6. Thanks, Barbara, for this lovely post. I’ve been thinking a lot this week about “Rien n’est parfait.” We are experiencing the 4th day of over-100 degrees Fahrenheit here in Madison. The last time we had even a single day over 100 was in 1994. “Rien n’est parfait.” So I’ve been grieving the planet I love, and how we are burning Her up. In the Madison area, we’ve had almost no rain for the last month, so the trees are suffering, and so are the animals, to say nothing of the farmers and their parched land.

    Realizing that I was grieving was difficult, because at first I felt great anger, partly at myself for believing when the environmental movement began in the late 1960s and early 1970s that it would be a no-brainer for all types of people to get involved, since everyone’s children and grandchildren would have to live on a polluted and globally-warmed-up planet if we did nothing about it. So I put my energies into the women’s movement, because it was clear that not everyone would see the need for women’s liberation. In later years I got involved in the green movement as well, but that was many years into the global weirding we are now experiencing.

    After feeling anger at myself, I felt anger at the corporations who continued to pollute and warm us up, because they could make more money that way PLUS anger at the right-wing Christians who maybe want global warming so the rapture will come quicker. At the very least fundamentalist Christians care much less about the Earth than I do, seeing it as something Yahweh will replace with a better planet during the end times, whereas I see Her as sacred.

    But I’ve also been reading Jonathan Haidt’s _The Righteous Mind: How Good People are Divided by Religion and Politics_. He talks a lot about our “groupishness,” and how this communality helps us to be better people, something similar to what “le renard” tells “le petit prince.” Unfortunately, we seem only to become important to each other within our own groups. And “le renard” tells “le petit prince” his secret, that only what we see with our hearts is the essential. I agree with him. But unfortunately what’s in the hearts of people in our group seems to be very different from what’s in the hearts of people in groups that are conservative or fundamentaist, and still we all have to live in this society together. So instead of doing the right thing about global warming, we’re sitting here on the scorched earth, crying for change. Yikes!

    I hate posting such a downer, but this seems like our reality right now.

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    • Thank Goddess it’s still cool here in Long Beach (it’ll be hot later this month), but I feel great sympathy for my friends east of the Rockies. I grew in St. Louis. I know heat and humidity. I wish I could understand people who don’t see that mankind (well, it’s mostly men) is ruining the planet. We need better, more thoughtful, less selfish communities. I wish I knew how to make that happen. Sigh. Thanks for your thoughtful post.

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