2005-10-23

crime and punishment...

an exerpt from "The Wisdom of the Sands" by Antoine de Saint-Exupery - after having caught one of his sentries sleeping while on guard, for which the penalty is death, and musing about that penalty:

Then was made clear to me the solution of the difficulty whereon I had often pondered; which was the quandary that afflicted me so cruelly when I, the king, was gazing down at my sleeping sentry. The cruelty of taking a youngster lost in happy dreams and pitchforking him, as it were, into death, aghast during those last terrible moments at being made to suffer thus at men's hands.

For as I gazed at him he awoke and drew his hand over his brows; then, not yet having recognized me, proffered his face to the stars, with a little sigh at the effort of picking up again his heavy weapons. And then it was revealed to me that here was a soul I had to win.

Standing beside him, I, his king gazed down upon the sleeping city, breathing-in seeming the same effluence -- and yet it was not the same. And I thought: There is no means of making clear the tragic import of this moment. No course that would avail is open to me, save to convert him, and disclose to him not these things which he sees, breathes in, appraises and possesses even as do I, but rather the vision shining across these visible things -- that God-made knot binding them all together. Thus, too, I saw that we must distinguish between conquest and constraint. To conquer is to convert; to constrain is to imprison. If I conquer you, I set a man free, but if I use constraint on you, I crush you out. For my conquest is a building up of yourself, through you and within you. Constraint is but the heap of stones aligned and all alike -- from which nothing will be born.

And I saw, too, that all men should thus be conquered and won over. Those that watched and those who slept, those who went their rounds on the ramparts, and those who were guarded by my sentries' rounds. Those who were rejoicing over a newborn babe and those who mourned their dead. Those who prayed and those who doubted. What I name "conquest" is building up for you the structure that befits you, and opening your mind to a fullness of understanding. For lakes there are to slake your thirst, so but you be shown the way to them. Thus will I instal in you my gods, so that they may enlighten you.

And assuredly it were best that in your childhood and betimes you should be conquered; else we shall find you casehardened and no longer capable of learning the language of the spirit.

No comments:

Post a Comment