Thursday, January 15, 2009

The Prophet

Love gives naught but itself and takes naught but from itself.
Love possesses not nor would it be possessed;
For love is sufficient unto love.

When you love you should not say, “God is in my heart,” but rather, “I am in the heart of God.”
And think not you can direct the course of love, for love, if it finds you worthy, directs your course.

Love has no other desire but to fulfill itself.
But if you love and must needs have desires, let these be your desires:
To melt and be like a running brook that sings its melody to the night.
To know the pain of too much tenderness.
To be wounded by your own understanding of love;
And to bleed willingly and joyfully.
To wake at dawn with a winged heart and give thanks for another day of loving;
To rest at the noon hour and meditate love’s ecstasy;
To return home at eventide with gratitude;
And then to sleep with a prayer for the beloved in your heart and a song of praise upon your lips.

--Kahlil Gibran

Halfway through the summer, I received a "graduation" gift from my ever-so-slightly mentally-imbalanced grandmother. Now, of course it's the thought that counts, but all the same I didn't have particularly high hopes when I began unwrapping the packaging. Past gifts from dear ol' Grandma have included a very large and very heavy etiquette book, a 25-year-old ratty jewelry box (which, as it turned out, had once been a present she received from my parents), and Victoria's Secret candy and toiletry items--which wouldn't have been so bad if I hadn't been eight years old at the time. Oh well.

This time, however, was different. Inside the box was a small, humble, yellow book written by a certain Kahlil Gibran and titled The Prophet. There was a picture of my father as a young toddler tacked inside the front cover, and underneath was a description of the photograph and the inscription: Timeless words by a very knowledgable [sic] prophet. May your journey through life bring many adventures, joys, accomplishments.

I read the book. I don't know what style to call it, but I suppose it could be categorized as prose poetry. The work is incredibly short, but it must be read slowly. One must pause between verses and again after each stanza to appreciate or even to understand the message. And, like a cow and her cud, the words must be revisited, rechewed, and reprocessed in order to be assimilated into something meaningful. The book is both true and beautiful.

I found an online version while researching some of Gibran's artwork for this post. If you've got the time and want to be inspired, I strongly recommend looking through it. My favorite chapters are those on Love, Joy and Sorrow, Reason and Passion, Teaching, Friendship, and Prayer. Really, though, the entire work is outstanding and breathtakingly profound. Read it. Live it.

Then said a teacher, Speak to us of Teaching.
And he said:
No man can reveal to you aught but which already lies half asleep in the dawning of your knowledge.
The teacher who walks in the shadow of the temple, among his followers, gives not of his wisdom but rather of his faith and his lovingness.
If he is indeed wise he does not bid you enter the house of his wisdom, but rather leads you to the threshold of your own mind.
The astronomer may speak to you of his understanding of space, but he cannot give you his understanding.
The musician may sing to you of the rhythm which is in all space, but he cannot give you the ear which arrests the rhythm nor the voice that echoes it.
And he who is versed in the science of numbers can tell of the regions of weight and measure, but he cannot conduct you thither.
For the vision of one man lends not its wings to another man.
And even as each one of you stands alone in God’s knowledge, so must each one of you be alone in his knowledge of God and in his understanding of the earth.

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