Impermanence: what better way to explain life? It’s a wonder that the word impermanent even exists; nothing is permanent. Unless you’re talking about a hairdo of course. Hair spray only goes so far so if you want it to stay that way, you’re gonna need a perm.
But I digress. As I do. One of the synonyms for impermanent is “ephemeral.” It’s a word that’s stuck with me since the summer before I first went to high school. A group of people got together to do a stage production of Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s The Little Prince, and somehow I got involved. We didn’t have a script, we just adapted the book. Quite brilliant for a bunch of high school kids when I think back.
Anyway, there was a line in the book, and in our play, that went, “That which is in danger of speedy disappearance,” as an explanation of what the word ephemeral means. The line was delivered to (not by) a boy named Charlie who later became a friend. We hung out together all through high school. He was in the foster care system and sometimes moved from place to place – for a while he lived at my house. He was the youngest of, if I remember correctly, four. All of his sisters had left home and had their own lives. His mother was schizophrenic.
After high school, Charlie went out on his own. He moved to Toronto and had several different jobs. Then we heard he’d been living in a tent. It came out later that he was schizophrenic, like his mother. He hung himself to death before his thirty-fifth birthday.
Charlie always struck me as someone who was ephemeral. From his frequent moves between foster parents, and his very upbringing, leaving his home and his sisters who were all unable to care for him, to finally his departure from life.
Elusive, fleeting, unstable, transient, perishable, evanescent… mortal.
The very theme of The Little Prince. If you haven’t read it, I strongly urge you to. There’s a lesson there which needs to be learned.