Kahlil Gibran was a Lebanese writer who spent the last twenty years of his life in United States. He considered THE Prophet to be his masterpiece, and most people who read it understand why. It is a poetic work, but not really a poem. In this book Gibran shares his philosophy of life in really beautiful language.
The author sets the scene
A prophet of God has been living among the people of Orphalese for s long time, but he has been longing to go back to his real home. Over the years he has come to love the people and the city. It is very difficult for him to even think about leaving. He describes the pain in this way:
Too many fragments of the spirit have I scattered in these streets, and too many are the children of my longing that walk naked among these hills, and I cannot withdraw from them without a burden and an ache.
It is not a garment I cast off this day, but a skin that tear with my own hands.
The people of Orphalese can’t let the Prophet go easily either, and they come in from their fields to say goodbye, and to ask him to not leave them without speaking to them. The prophet doesn’t know what to say, but the seeress, Almitra comes out of the sanctuary, and she knows what the people need to hear, and what the Prophet needs to tell them.
Speak to us of
The book then becomes a series of lectures in which the Prophet shares his thoughts on a variety of topics. First the seeress, Almitra asks him, “Speak to us of Love.” The Prophet answers, and then Almitra and the other people, ask him to speak to them about a variety of topics, including marriage, eating and drinking, houses, clothes, teaching and time. The author uses the Prophet’s answers to the mason, the judge, the inn keeper and others, to share his philosophy. The language is beautiful enough to make even a dedicated non-reader like me glad he has read it. Please read this passage from The Prophet:
And a woman who held a babe against her bosom said, Speak to us of Children.
And he said:
Your children are not your children.
They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself.
They come through you but not from you,
And though they are with you yet they belong not to you.
You may give them your love but not your thoughts,
For they have their own thoughts.
You may house their bodies but not their souls,
For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow, which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.
You may strive to be like them, but seek not to make them like you.
For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.
You could read this book several times and still not be tired of it. Read it first to hear the wording, the pretty phrases such as, “For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow”. Then read it again and really listen to the message: “You may give them your love but not your thoughts.” This is a book a reader can enjoy (and probably quote) over and over again.
Kahlil Gibran said that he believed The Prophet had always been a part of him. It is clear to me that it must have been because no one could think up the discussions on so many topics without a lifetime of thought. The author finds beauty and dignity in every aspect of living, and he shares this with his readers. The subjects covered by The Prophet range from Marriage and Love, to Clothing, and Buying and Selling. When an old priest says, “Speak to us of Religion,” the prophet answers, “Have I spoken this day of aught else?” This is clearly the work of a man with a strong belief in God, and a belief that everything in life comes to us from God. Gibran writes that pain and joy are equally “wondrous”, and that you can’t truly appreciate joy if you haven’t experienced pain.Kahlil Gibran’s philosophy seems to hold that we should accept everything God sends to us, trusting that God won’t send us anything we can’t handle with his help. He writes:
Much of your pain is self-chosen.
It is the bitter potion by which the physician within you heals your sick self.
Therefore trust the physician, and drink his remedy in silence and tranquillity:
For his hand, though heavy and hard, is guided by the tender hand of the Unseen,
And the cup he brings, though it burn your lips, has been fashioned of the clay which the Potter has moistened with His own sacred tears.
I wish I could be as calm and accepting of life’s unpleasant surprises as the author. Reading this book did make me really think about life, and see the beauty in some simple things. It also gave me inspiration, and I think that would please the author