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 an animal. Here
is a copy of the drawing.
In the book it said: "Boa constrictors swallow their
whole, without chewing it. After that they are not able to
move, and they sleep through the six months that they
need for digestion."
I pondered deeply, then, over the adventures of the jungle.
And after some work with a colored pencil I succeeded in
making my first drawing. My Drawing Number One.
It looked like this:
I showed my masterpiece to the grown-ups, and asked
them whether the drawing frightened them. But they
answered: "Frighten? 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: 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:
The grown-ups' response, this time, was to advise me
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 chose 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 always say:
"That is a hat."
Then I would never talk to that person about boa constrictors,
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