FEBRUARY 24, 1940
GOLDEN BEACH, Fla., Friday—I finished a book yesterday which I hated to put down. It is called, "Wind, Sand and Stars" by Antoine de Saint Exupery. The American edition of this book is offered in homage to the airline pilots of America and their dead. These men deserve high homage, but I think it is not too much to say of this book that it is worthy of the men to whom it is dedicated.
I think it leaves one with a better understanding of what it means to be a real man and why men must have a zest for life and yet a contempt for death. One quotation in the early part of the book is worth noting: "To be a man is, precisely, to be responsible. It is to feel shame at the sight of what seems to be unmerited misery. It is to take pride in a victory won by one's comrades. It is to feel, when setting one's stone, that one is contributing to the building of the world.
"There is a tendency to class such men with toreadors and gamblers. People extol their contempt for death. But I would not give a fig for anybody's contempt for death. If its roots are not sunk deep in an acceptance of responsibility, this contempt for death is the sign either of an impoverished soul or of youthful extravagance."
I wonder if some of our young people today, who rather clumsily express their desire to keep this country at peace and continue the efforts of their generation to make life more worth living, do not have this desire rooted in them because of their sense of responsibility for conditions in the world. Some people think this desire is rooted in personal fear. I doubt that greatly, for I have known few real cowards in my life. Death is so inevitable that few people are really afraid when faced by it. Inevitability calls forth a courage all its own, but a desire to live and face the difficulties of a world, which certainly is full of unanswered questions, smacks of this courage which accepts responsibility. There may be a chance that it is the courage which we need today.
The book ends with this sentence: "Only the spirit, if it breathe upon clay, can create man." Not a bad thing to remember. Flesh and blood is not what makes man. It is that spirit which none of us understand, the great mystery which all of us face which really creates a man.
I have discovered what is the paramount interest in Florida. Nothing less than the weather! You look out of your window in the morning and rejoice in the sunshine, and a cold wind blowing is a real, personal grievance. You feel removed, at least I do, from the things which are going on in the world. Even the newspapers and the radio bring them to me as something distant and apart from this circumscribed world of sea and sand and wind.
The moon on the ocean last night was unbelievably lovely, but it was too cold to sit out of doors. I left the place yesterday morning for the first time and drove about to have a glimpse of Miami, which has changed much since I came here years ago.