Some words pass through us quickly and vanish into the air; others burrow into our very flesh and change the way we think, speak and feel.
For me, the work of Kahlil Gibran falls into the second category.
Lebanese born, educated in New York, Paris and Beirut, he was the third best-selling poet in history, and his words sparked a literary revolution. Best known in the West for his book, The Prophet, Gibran lived from 1883 to 1931, but his legacy survived much longer, messages of universal love, freedom and tolerance taking root in the countercultural soil of the American sixties.
I set out to offer you ten of my favorite passages from his writing, but as you will see, it is simply too brilliant to stop so soon.
Each of these quotes has at some point touched me deeply. I have no words to express the profound impact of this poetry, and I hope it will leave you speechless as well:
“One day you will ask me which is more important? My life or yours? I will say mine and you will walk away not knowing that you are my life.”
“For what is it to die but to stand naked in the wind and to melt into the sun? And when the earth shall claim your limbs, then shall you truly dance.”
“Beauty is eternity gazing at itself in a mirror.
But you are eternity and you are the mirror.”
“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.”
“Trees are poems the earth writes upon the sky, We fell them down and turn them into paper,
That we may record our emptiness.”
“Out of suffering have emerged the strongest souls; the most massive characters are seared with scars.”
“My friend, I am not what I seem. Seeming is but a garment I wear — a care-woven garment that protects me from thy questionings and thee from my negligence. The “I” in me, my friend, dwells in the house of silence, and therein it shall remain for ever more, unperceived, unapproachable.”
“I have found both freedom and safety in my madness; the freedom of loneliness and the safety from being understood, for those who understand us enslave something in us.”
“The timeless in you is aware of life’s timelessness. And knows that yesterday is but today’s memory and tomorrow is today’s dream.”
“And forget not that the earth delights to feel your bare feet and the winds long to play with your hair.”
“Your pain is the breaking of the shell that encloses your understanding.
Even as the stone of the fruit must break, that its heart may stand in the sun, so must you know pain.
And could you keep your heart in wonder at the daily miracles of your life, your pain would not seem less wondrous than your joy;
And you would accept the seasons of your heart, even as you have always accepted the seasons that pass over your fields.”
“The appearance of things changes according to the emotions; and thus we see magic and beauty in them, while the magic and beauty are really in ourselves.”
“They deem me mad because I will not sell my days for gold; and I deem them mad because they think my days have a price.”
“If you reveal your secrets to the wind,
you should not blame the wind for
revealing them to the trees.”
“We are all prisoners but some of us are in cells with windows and some without.”
“We wanderers, ever seeking the lonelier way, begin no day where we have ended another day; and no sunrise finds us where sunset left us. Even while the earth sleeps we travel. We are the seeds of the tenacious plant, and it is in our ripeness and our fullness of heart that we are given to the wind and are scattered.”
“For what is evil but good tortured by its own hunger and thirst?”
“Your children are not your children. They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself…
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.”
“Many of us spend our whole lives running from feeling with the mistaken belief that you can not bear the pain. But you have already borne the pain. What you have not done is feel all you are beyond that pain.”
“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.”
“To measure you by your smallest deed
is to reckon the ocean by the frailty of its foam.
To judge you by your failures
is to cast blame upon the seasons
for their inconsistencies.”
“In one drop of water are found all the secrets of all the oceans; in one aspect of You are found all the aspects of existence.”
“If you love somebody, let them go, for if they return, they were always yours. If they don’t, they never were.”
Say not, ‘I have found the truth,’ but rather, ‘I have found a truth.’