the wisdom of the sands - antoine de saint-exupéry

"Sire, I once lived in a hamlet on a smiling hillside; a hamlet firmly rooted in the earth, under a sky that was its own, a hospitable sky. It was a village built to last, and lasting. The lustre of long use gleamed on the lips of our wells, on our doorsteps, on the curved brims of our fountains. Then unbewares one night something stirred in the bedrock of our village; it seemed that the ground underfoot was waking to life again, reshaping itself. What had been made was once more in the making. We trembled, not so much fearing for ourselves as for all those things we had labored to perfect; things for which we had been bartering ourselves lifelong. As for me, I was a carver of metal, and I feared for the great silver ewer on which I had toiled two years; for whose perfection I had bartered two years of sleepless nights. Another feared for the deep-piled carpets he had rejoiced to weave. Every day he unfurled them in the sun; he was proud of having bartered somewhat of his gnarled flesh for that rich flood of color, deep and diverse as the waves of the sea. Another feared for the olive trees he had planted. But, Sire, I make bold to say, not one of us feared death; we all feared for our foolish little things. We were discovering that life has a meaning only if one barters it day by day for something other than itself. Thus the death of the gardener does no harm to the tree; but if you threaten the tree the gardener dies twice. There was an old story-teller amongst us, who knew the fairest tales of the desert and had embellished them. And, being sonless, was alone in knowing them. When the earth began to slip he trembled for those poor ballads that never again would be sung by any man. For now the earth had wakened to life, it went on remolding itself and a great yellow tide came creeping down the hillside. And what of himself, I ask you, can a man barter to embellish a yellow flood that, slowly swirling, swallows all? What may he build on a formless moving mass?"

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