A thoughtful comment by Saint-Exupéry, whose slim Flight to Arras is packed with insights into the nature of civilization, peace, and war. Here he celebrates the deployment of many to rescue one, suggesting that in that act, they were also rescuing humankind (don’t be distracted by his use of ‘Man’, his writing makes clear he is referring to Humanity)
What made my civilization grand was that a hundred miners were called upon to risk their lives in the rescue of a single miner entombed. And what they rescued in rescuing that miner was Man.
See other observations on civilization, including two more by Saint-Exupéry: one a definition, the other a metaphor; a funny conversation on civilization as it relates to the roles of men and woman, reported by Lawrence Durrell; Durrell’s own thought on post-war signals of civilization; and lastly, a child’s eye view of civilization.
Source: Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, Flight to Arras, trans. by Lewis Galantière (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1961), p. 157
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