Tuesday, December 01, 2009

the lessons of kahlil gibran: substance

i wanted to highlight one of my favorite poets: kahlil gibran. he's a bit of an enigmatic figure in literature, with much less attention given to him and much less information known about him compared to other poets and writers i've mentioned here. as a result, i can't say that i like him as an artist, since there's just not that much available to understand him, but i do like him for just one very special, very unique, very profound piece of his: the prophet.

i've read his other stuff, and it didn't move me the same way. the prophet is just one of those works of literature that surprises you, but in a way that is very quiet, very soft, very gentle, to the point that it seeps slowly into the deepest recesses of your mind and then lingers like a long lost memory of sublime beauty that rises to something sacred, and which you can thus never quite bring yourself to let go away--nor would ever want to. it is, in a word, exquisite.

i'm not going to cite it here. it's just too long. it is, however, readily available at many locations on the internet for free. you can try the following:
there's also a good bio of kahlil gibran at the following:
i will state why the prophet means so much to me.

kahlil gibran, at least as much is known about him, exudes a sense of ineffable loneliness. and you can feel that sense, and the emptiness that it brings to life and living, in the prophet. but more importantly, you find gibran's response.

the setting of the poem is a city, wherein the namesake prophet has been informed a long-awaited ship has arrived to take him home. when the word of his departure spreads throughout the city, the populace cries out in sorrow, for they have come to rely on the prophet as the source of wisdom and comfort in their lives. in a last effort to glean their final lessons from him, they begin to ply him with questions on a range of subjects, including children, love, aging--essentially, the essence of living. the poem consists of chapters, with each chapter being the people asking questions, and the prophet then giving his answers.

in the course of discussing the issue of living, i find that the poem gets to one of the most incredible mysteries of life: substance.

for so many people, at so many times, the act of living becomes an act of emptiness. we go through our days going through the motions, with nothing in terms of spirit. there is, as has been said in many other ways, no purpose, no urgency, no vitality, no connection with the notion of life in a universe that has absolutely no reason to have it. the french use the phrase joie de vivre (i.e., joy of living), but in the sense of joy being the ecstasy that comes from understanding--the joy that comes from fulfillment of knowing all that there is to know...and so often we lose it. and in so doing, lose ourselves.

and that's when we're most alone.

gibran's passages respond to this. the prophet speaks of the things that fill the emptiness, not just in actions or goals or concepts or things, but in terms of perspectives on how to see and understand and approach and embrace the mystery of living in a way that does justice to the sanctity of life. in short, it gets to spirit. it gets to purpose. it gets to substance.

and i speak of this from experience. because in the times of my emptiness, in the times when i am lost, in the times when i am most alone, the prophet has been one of the few things that has ever brought me back.

back to life.

1 comment:

Kristen Lodge said...

I remember reading this book and, yes, it was at my most loneliness. Thanks for the reminder. I'm not there anymore. But I remember him well.