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I smashed the phone against the wall, and it shattered into pieces.
I dropped to my knees and prayed to be released from this thing called love. It was our third big fight in one month.
I was in my last year of college and 18 months into a relationship. The early passion had long since worn off, quickly replaced by arguments and misunderstandings. Our different interests, values, and visions of the future surfaced in every minute detail of the present.
We both knew we had reached the end, but were just too afraid to admit it. Finally, she left college, left the country, and went back to her home. We’ve never spoken since.
That experience marked me. It confused me. How could something so good turn out to be so ugly? I was way too young to comprehend the full intricacies of love.
How can we genuinely describe love? It’s not one feeling, but a thousand-and-one feelings that burrow into our being and infiltrate every cell of our body. Love changes the way we think, feel, and speak. Love makes us act stupidly and godly—sometimes all within a few minutes. It can take us to great heights of ecstasy, but also bring us down into an abyss of agony.
So then, how can one word or a few sentences possibly express the full meaning of love?
Thankfully, we have the poets.
And if you ask me, poets don’t come better than Kahlil Gibran. Every time I read his words, I start to feel an inner tingling in my heart, and my soul begins chirping like the nightingale he so lyrically describes. I cling to his every word as if it were God speaking directly to me.
Gibran wrote in both Arabic and English, and his best work was produced in the era of the roaring twenties in New York City. He was influenced by the free thought and exuberance of that time, and he was regularly associated with W.B. Yeats, Carl Jung, and Rodin. His seminal book, The Prophet, is amongst the best-selling books of all time—after The Bible and Shakespeare’s collections.
There is a simplicity and beauty to his writings that reach far and wide. He offers spiritual and philosophical musings on love, God, family, work, death, and so many other threads that unite humanity.
And it is his incredible exploration in The Prophet that, I believe, tells us all we need to know about love:
“When love beckons to you, follow him,
Though his ways are hard and steep.
And when his wings enfold you yield to him,
Though the sword hidden among his pinions may wound you.
And when he speaks to you believe in him,
Though his voice may shatter your dreams
as the north wind lays waste the garden.
For even as love crowns you so shall he crucify you. Even as he is for your growth so is he for your pruning.
Even as he ascends to your height and caresses your tenderest branches that quiver in the sun,
So shall he descend to your roots and shake them in their clinging to the earth.
Like sheaves of corn he gathers you unto himself.
He threshes you to make you naked.
He sifts you to free you from your husks.
He grinds you to whiteness.
He kneads you until you are pliant;
And then he assigns you to his sacred fire, that you may become sacred bread for God’s sacred feast.
All these things shall love do unto you that you may know the secrets of your heart, and in that knowledge
become a fragment of Life’s heart.
But if in your fear you would seek only love’s peace and love’s pleasure,
Then it is better for you that you cover your nakedness and pass out of love’s threshing-floor,
Into the seasonless world where you shall laugh, but not all of your laughter, and weep, but not all of your tears.
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.”
Gibran’s thoughts changed my perspective on love. I now see love not as something I can choose, but rather something that chooses me. Love, in taking us on a rollercoaster ride and unlocking the vaulted gates to our hearts, is actually purifying us—making us the best version of ourselves.
Love, when allowed, will “descend to your roots and shake them in their clinging to the earth.”
Read these 432 words once a day for 30 days, and you might just become an expert on love.
Author: Mo Issa
Image: Wikimedia Commons
Editor: Lieselle Davidson
Copy Editor: Nicole Cameron