There is one book I carry with me wherever I go: The Prophet by Kahlil Gibran.
Every time I read a few pages, I start to feel an inner tingling in my heart, and my soul starts chirping like the nightingale he so lyrically describes. It’s true that I cling to his words harder than the average person, because we both come from Lebanon. However, his great fame and works, both as a poet and an artist, has had a profound effect on many people around the world.
Gibran wrote in both Arabic and English, and his best work was produced in the era of the roaring 20s in New York, USA. He was influenced by the free thought and exuberance of that time, and he was regularly associated with W.B. Yeats, Carl Jung and August Rodin. His seminal book The Prophet is among the best-selling books of all time, after the Bible and Shakespeare’s collections.
Though his books were initially ignored by critics, they have influenced world leaders like J.F.Kennedy, The Beatles and many millions around the globe. There is both simplicity and beauty to his writings that reach far and wide. They offer spiritual and philosophical musings on God, love, family, work, death and many other threads that unite humanity.
Below are 11 quotes from Gibran that I read regularly, and that are indelibly stamped in my heart:
1) “Your daily life is your temple and your religion.”
2) “You talk when you cease to be at peace with your thoughts.”
3) “Let there be spaces in your togetherness, And let the winds of the heavens dance between you. Love one another but make not a bond of love: Let it rather be a moving sea between the shores of your souls. Fill each other’s cup but drink not from one cup. Give one another of your bread but eat not from the same loaf. Sing and dance together and be joyous, but let each one of you be alone, Even as the strings of a lute are alone though they quiver with the same music. Give your hearts, but not into each other’s keeping. For only the hand of Life can contain your hearts. And stand together, yet not too near together: For the pillars of the temple stand apart, And the oak tree and the cypress grow not in each other’s shadow.”
4) “Your children are not your children.
They are 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.”
5) “Some of you say, ‘Joy is greater than sorrow,’ and others say, ‘Nay, sorrow is the greater.’
But I say unto you, they are inseparable. Together they come, and when one sits alone with you at your board, remember that the other is asleep upon your bed.”
6) “You give but little when you give of your possessions. It is when you give of yourself that you truly give.”
7) “I love you when you bow in your mosque, kneel in your temple, pray in your church. For you and I are sons of one religion, and it is the spirit.”
8) “No man can reveal to you aught but that 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.”
9) “When you love, you should not think you can direct the course of love, for love, if it finds you worthy, directs your course.”
10) “Say not, ‘I have found the truth,’ but rather, ‘I have found a truth.’ Say not, ‘I have found the path of the soul.’ Say rather, ‘I have met the soul walking upon my path.’ For the soul walks upon all paths. The soul walks not upon a line, neither does it grow like a reed. The soul unfolds itself, like a lotus of countless petals.”
11) “Work is love made visible. And if you can’t work with love, but only with distaste, it is better that you should leave your work and sit at the gate of the temple and take alms of the people who work with joy.”
Author: Mo Issa
Editor: Catherine Monkman
Photo: Liz West/Flickr