Life in progress

I is for Impermanent


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.

Author: LindaGHill

There's a writer in here, clawing her way out.

21 thoughts on “I is for Impermanent

  1. I swear, my final years of high school simply must have been during a time of the “New English” plan (I barely survived New Math) – as more and more I learn of so many ‘classics’ that others read, or were required to read, etc. that I’ve heard of, but have never read – 🙂
    I would argue that one thing is always permanent – impermanence – 🙂
    Just like you can always count on one thing being the same – changes – 🙂
    As for Charlie, I struggle so with our seemingly cultural schizophrenic way of being sad, but understanding, when those in terminal physical pain choose to their time to leave, but not the same compassion for those in emotional or mental pain who make the same choice – I, too, have had friends/family members choose their own time for leaving and while I’m sad to see them go, I struggle most with the thoughts of how much pain they must have endured for so long, that leaving seemed the only option left – hugs, Linda – Excellent post!


  2. You have acknowledged Charlie’s dignity and worth when the tendency might have been to say, “yeah, that’s what happens with unstable people.” I enjoyed this very thought-provoking post.
    ~Visiting from AtoZ


  3. I’m so sorry that happened to your friend. I think your post is beautifully written, “ephemeral” is a lovely word to explain how he seemed to you. “The Little Prince” is such a rich story. Thanks for sharing.


  4. Whoa. That “impermanent” definition took a dark turn fast.


  5. So sorry about your friend. Such a tragedy.


  6. I love The Little Prince. So many of those chapters are parables. I like very much the red-faced cigar smoking man qui compte les chiffres. I almost married a real-life version of him. Maybe the book saved me…
    I am sorry to read such a sad story.
    I think you know my concerns for my schizophrenic neighbor. :/


  7. Such a sad story. The little prince was one of my son’s favorite books. So many lessons to be learned in those pages.


  8. Wow. I TOTALLY did not think the story would end like that. 😦 But, what you wrote is still a wonderful piece/post. I have not read the book so I will add it to my list! 🙂


  9. The one thing that is permanent, besides a hairdo, is change. That is a sad story, concerning the changes your friend Charlie went through.


  10. Don’t mind the tears. Something stuck in my eye. Horribly tragic, but oh so true.


  11. The Little prince you say!


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