Once when I was six years old I saw
a magnificent picture in a book, called True Stories from
Nature, about the primeval forest. It was a picture of a boa
constrictor in the act of swallowing a beast of prey. Here
is a copy of the drawing.
<== See left
book it said: "Boa constrictors swallow their prey whole,
without chewing it. After that they are not able to move,
and they sleep through the six months that they need for
I pondered all day long, then, over the
adventures of the jungle. After many attempts I finally
succeeded in making my first drawing with a colored pencil.
My Drawing Number One. It looked like this:
<== See left
I showed my
masterpiece to the grown-ups, and asked them whether the
drawing frightened them.
They answered: "Why should any one be
frightened by a hat?"
My drawing was not a picture of a hat. It
was a picture of a boa constrictor digesting an elephant.
But since the grown-ups were not able to understand it, I
made another drawing. This time I drew the inside of the boa
constrictor, so that the grown-ups could see it clearly.
They always need to have things explained. My Drawing Number
Two looked like this:
<== See left
The grown-ups' response, this time, was to advise me to lay
aside my drawings of boa constrictors, whether from the
inside or the outside, and devote myself instead to
geography, history, arithmetic and grammar. That is why, at
the age of six, I gave up what might have been a magnificent
career as a painter. I had been disheartened by the failure
of my Drawing Number One and my Drawing Number Two.
Grown-ups never understand anything by themselves, and it is
tiresome for children to be always and forever explaining
things to them.
So then I had to choose another profession, and learned to
pilot airplanes. I have flown a little over all parts of the
world; and it is true that geography has been very useful to
me. At a glance I can distinguish China from Arizona. If one
gets lost in the night, such knowledge is valuable.
In the course of this life I have had a great many
encounters with a great many people who have been concerned
with matters of consequence. I have lived a great deal among
grown-ups. I have seen them intimately, close at hand. And
that hasn't much improved my opinion of them.
Whenever I met one of them who seemed to me at all
clear-sighted, I tried the experiment of showing him my
Drawing Number One, which I have always kept. I would try to
find out, so, if this was a person of true understanding.But,
whoever it was, he, or she, would invariably say: "That is a
would never talk to that person about boa constrictors, or
primeval forests, or stars. I would bring myself down to his
level. I would talk to him about bridge, and golf, and
politics, and neckties. And the grown-up would be greatly
pleased to have met such a sensible man.