A week or so ago one of my good friends recommended I read a book called The Prophet, by Kahlil Gibran. I had never heard of it before, but that doesn’t surprise me, I haven’t heard of a great many things.
Gibran was an author, painter, and philosopher who was born in Lebanon and spent much of his life in the U.S. and traveling abroad. According to a 2008 article from The New Yorker, Gibran is the third best-selling poet of all time, behind Shakespeare and Lao-tzu, and he owes this popularity entirely to The Prophet.
“The Prophet” started fast—it sold out its first printing in a month—and then it got faster, until, in the nineteen-sixties, its sales sometimes reached five thousand copies a week. It was the Bible of that decade.
And I can see why it was. After reading it twice (it’s a very short book), I thought I would share my five favorite quotes from this collection of essays with a bit of commentary apiece.
1) “When love beckons to you, follow him,
Though his ways are hard and steep.”
Frankly, love hurts, and there will always be difficulties. No relationship (whether between lovers or friends or parents) will ever be entirely easy, and if it is it’s not worth it. When you love someone else and they love you in return, go for it, and don’t let your fear of getting hurt get in the way.
2) “You are the bows from which your children as living arrows are sent forth.”
Gibran goes on to say that parents aren’t the ones who aim the arrows, that is God. Parents are only the tools God uses to mold children, and parents need to remember that ultimately it is not they who decide who their children will grow up to be.
3) “You work that you may keep pace with the earth and the soul of the earth.
For to be idle is to become a stranger unto the seasons, and to step out of life’s procession, that marches in majesty and proud submission towards the infinite.”
I particularly like this philosophy because I hate being idle. I need to be actively involved in a project and moving forward in order to feel like I am living my life to the fullest, and Gibran’s ideas only concrete this characteristic in me.
4) “When you are joyous, look deep into your heart and you shall find it is only that which has given you sorrow that is giving you joy.
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.”
How true. When someone is upset, it is always connected to the loss of or the hindrance of what has made them happy, and when someone is happy it is always related to what once upset them. Joy and sorrow are never far apart.
5) “And forget not that the earth delights to feel your bare feet and the winds long to play with your hair.”