The Trouble with Exploring is that there are Unexpected Complications, I say.
The Owner spends some time extracting my Ears from the Bush. I do not know how you got into such a tangle, she says. You have cut yourself. But it is not that bad. One would not want to Give Up Exploring.
It was a Snake, I say.
It was not a Snake, says the Owner, this is Highgate. We do not have any Snakes.
It was the thought of a Snake that might have come here from Somewhere Else, I say. It led to confusion in the Brambles.
How would a Snake get here from Somewhere else? Asks the Owner.
There are Multiple Ways to Highgate, I say, including the Underground from Regents Park and a very Slow Wriggle via Primrose Hill.
That is nonsense, says the Owner. To get to Highgate from Regents Park it would have to change at Oxford Circus and Tottenham Court Road. It would never manage it.
Nevertheless, I say, it is not impossible. Primrose Hill is not much of a Challenge.
I grant you that, says the Owner, but there is No Snake Here. Go and Explore.
You are very blasé, I say, given that I may already be scarred for the rest of my life, I say.
You may, says the Owner, although only if your life is Extremely Short.
That is not funny, I say. It is clearly Dangerous to Explore when there may be Snakes Around.
On the Contrary, says the Owner. It is Morally Essential to Explore, Snakes Notwithstanding. How else can the Moral Dog remain Moral?
Could he not remain Moral by sitting in the Kitchen sharing Philosophy and Cheese? I ask.
No, says the Owner, that is Not Enough. Shall I tell you the story of the Little Prince?
It is not like Paradise Lost, is it? I ask. Whilst it was a Very Good Story, I did not like the Bit about the Snake.
It is not Paradise Lost, says the Owner. It is about a Little Prince who is an Explorer from another Planet, hoping to Learn about the World.
Is he a bit like the Moral Dog without the Risky Ears? I ask.
Indeed, says the Owner. And the Prince meets a Pilot stranded in the desert, and, between them, they learn Important Lessons.
The Pilot sounds a little like the Owner, I say. Is it a true story?
It must be a true story, says the Owner. The Narrator says that the proof that the little Prince was Real is that he was Charming, that he Laughed, and that he was Looking for a Sheep. He says that if anybody wants a Sheep, that is a proof that he Exists.
I shall look for a Sheep at Once, I say. I would not like anyone to think I am not Real.
I am quite sure that you are Real, says the Owner. If you were not then there would be no explanation for why the bed is currently Covered in Mud.
I am glad to have offered reassurance on this point, I say. But what does the Prince say about Exploring?
The Prince describes the many planets he has visited, says the Owner, on which he has met narrow-minded Grown-Up Persons who do not Truly See what matters about the world because they have not Properly Looked.
Do you mean Persons like the Prime Minister? I ask.
You may think so, says the Owner. He has met a King who only issues orders that can be followed, a vain man who seeks admiration even though there is nobody there to admire him, a businessmen who is too busy owning things to see their beauty and a geographer whose knowledge comes only from books. All of these people have not Understood that you Cannot See if you Do Not Look.
This sounds exactly like the Prime Minister, I say.
Indeed, says the Owner, but the Moral of the Story is that there are more Important ways to Look.
This sounds very Moral, I say, even if it ignores the Obvious Risks of Ear Injury. What are the Important Ways to Look?
Well, says the Owner, the Prince meets a Moral Fox who tells him that the way to See what Matters is to Look not with the Eyes but with the Heart.
Now I know it cannot be True, I say. Foxes are not nearly as Clever as That.
It was almost certainly an Ancestral Dog, says the Owner. The translation of the book is Sometimes Faulty.
It is helpful to look with the Eyes too, I say, if you do not want your Ears to get Caught in the Brambles. If the Prime Minister did not Look where he was Going then surely he would Fall Over Himself.
Indeed, says the Owner. I think he Frequently Does.
What happens to the Little Prince? I ask.
I have told you the Main Part, says the Owner, looking uncomfortable.
That does not normally stop you from Plodding On to the Bitter End, I say.
I do not need to tell you the last Part, says the Owner. It does not help with Exploring.
One cannot fail to finish a Story one has begun, I say.
Sometimes, says the Owner, the End of the Story is not the Point.
The Little Prince gets bitten by a Snake, doesn’t he? I say.
I had forgotten that part when I started, says the Owner. It is an Unexpected Complication.
That’s the Trouble with Exploring, I say.
Hergest the Hound
I am a dog of many thoughts.