I encountered this word for the first time after reading the book Little Prince. It was the fox who said “It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye.” I looked it up in my hardy Merriam-Webster dictionary “es·​sen·​tial i-ˈsen(t)-shəlof, relating to, or constituting essence INHERENTof the utmost importance: BASIC, INDISPENSABLE, NECESSARY.

But what is essential that’s “invisible to the eye”? When you’re an angst-ridden teenager, anything and everything could be a source of agitation, irritation, demoralization, even suicide ideation. Teenagers are such tragic characters. journals are smeared with blood that dripped from shallow bladed slashes on the pale side of the arm where nerves are more sensitive; “not killing myself mom; just manifesting internal turmoil.”

And so “essential” became my safe word. There have been varying interpretations of what this quote meant. I took it to mean: Not everything is important.

I gave the book to my son when he was going through a difficult time. He said he loved it. And yet I wonder if it helped him discern what “matters of consequence” truly are.

About filinthegap

Lani T. Montreal is an educator, writer, performer, and community activist. Her writings have been published and produced in Canada, the U.S., the Philippines and in cyberspace. Among her plays are: Nanay, Panther in the Sky, Gift of Tongue, Looking for Darna, Alien Citizen, Grandmother and I, and her most-toured comedy drama about gender and immigration, titled Sister OutLaw. She is the recipient of the 2016 3Arts Djerassi Residency Fellowship for Playwriting, 2009 3Arts Ragdale Residency Fellowship, the 2001 Samuel Ostrowsky Award for her memoir “Summer Rain,” and was finalist for the 1995 JVO Philippine Award for Excellence in Journalism for her environmental expose “Poison in the River.” Lani holds an MFA in Creative Writing from Roosevelt University. She teaches writing at Malcolm X College, one of the City Colleges of Chicago and writes a blog called “Fil-in-the-gap”. ( She lives (and loves) in Albany Park, Chicago with her multi-species, multi-cultural family.
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