Monday, March 23, 2015

Kahlil Gibran's "The Prophet"

When did you discover Kahlil Gibran’s The Prophet? I found it early in high school, and its wisdom continues to speak to me. Just this week, ideas from this profound work came up in conversation with friends.
At breakfast the other day, “the girls” were discussing a friend who had recently died. She was loving and giving, always ready to help where needed. But even when help was offered to her, she refused to take it. She saw herself as a giver, not a taker.
I was reminded of the end of the essay “On Giving”:
“And you receivers—and you are all receivers—assume no weight of gratitude, lest you lay a yoke upon yourself and upon him who gives. Rather, rise together with the giver on his gifts as on wings. For to be overmindful of your debt, is to doubt his generosity who has the free-hearted earth for mother, and God for father.”
We had a long discussion about the very real truth that we are all growing older, and may each require help at some time. Those of us who are givers (and all those at the table fit into that category) must remember not to steal the joy of giving from those who offer it. We love the feeling of being able to help someone else. Why do we deny that same sense of purpose to others? (I’m preaching to myself, here.)
Just yesterday, I was speaking to a younger woman whose husband died on Thursday. She felt guilty because she was crying so much. Another friend and I spent some time with her assuring her that she was entitled to feel her grief—for as long as needed. We also gave her permission to be angry with him for leaving.
Although his death was not unexpected, the actual moment she realized he was gone took her by surprise.
Once again, Gibran’s powerful words came to me. Several essays address death and the feelings which surround it:
From “On Joy and Sorrow”:
When you are sorrowful look again in your heart, and you shall see that in truth you are weeping for that which has been your delight.
From “On Death”:
For what is it to die but to stand naked in the wind and to melt into the sun?... And when you have reached the mountain top, then you shall begin to climb. And when the earth shall claim your limbs, then shall you truly dance.
In this case, the last was totally appropriate. The husband was a hiker and loved the outdoors. He left instructions that he was to be cremated and his hiking friends were to scatter his ashes along the trail where they had shared such wonderful memories. Since he was a scientist and very concerned with the environment, the phrase “ashes to ashes; dust to dust” was very real to him.
The imagery in “The Coming of the Ship” and “The Farewell” speak metaphorically of death. One passage I especially love is from “The Coming of the Ship:
Let not the waves of the sea separate us now, and the years you have spent in our midst become a memory. You have walked among us a spirit, and your shadow has been a light upon our faces. Much have we loved you. But speechless was our love, and with veils has it been veiled. Yet now it cries aloud unto you, and would stand revealed before you. And ever has it been that love knows not its own depth until the hour of separation.

If you have not read this lovely book before, I suggest you might want to try it now. It is an allegory, but it contains much profundity. If you read it years ago, you might want to take another look. (I pick it up every few years and read it again.) If you have read it, what are your feelings about it?

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