Kahlil Gibran’s The Prophet is one of those rare books that proves to be timeless and brimming with wisdom, one that instantly gives you clarity upon reading it. Call me late to The Prophet-party, but I’m glad that I read it at the most opportune time possible. As I sift through the mess of 2016, reading Gibran’s classic work gave me so much perspective beyond our current times, propelling a leap inwards towards the self’s center.
The book is the story of Almustafa who was set to sail out back to his birthplace, after living in Orphalese for more than a decade. But before he leaves, he engages in a discussion of life and the human condition with a group of people. This becomes the essence of The Prophet, a compilation of 26 prose fables on love, marriage, pain, work and other matters of life we hold dear.
We’re living in a time where our lives are complicated by economic, political, psychological and social factors, not in the way that strengthens our resolve as human beings but geared towards a profit-seeking, environmentally-destructible and individualist paradigm. It is no wonder that even with the rise of social media, we feel disconnected more than ever — misunderstood, disillusioned, isolated.
How do we then make sense of our need to flourish in the short time that we have in this world, given the unforgiving frailty of our human faculties? Gibran seemed to have the answers.
On love & marriage — the message is this: a delicate dance of just enough is enough for love. More than bell hooks’s book All About Love which I touted at one point as my bible, I think Gibran’s message resonates because it acknowledges our humanity while respecting our beloved’s.
This inquiry is central to so many of our lives — the desire to love and be loved. And when we do find our beloved, the path to healthy relationships at times can be thorny. Although we spend the majority of our early years in school, we are never taught how to relate in intimate relationships healthily. Our education comes in the form of prominent figures in our personal lives and what we see in the media. In this matter, Gibran also has some words.
What he talks about isn’t easy. As good as all of it sounds, it might take years of unlearning what we’ve known all along and slowly integrate Gibran’s wisdom. We are vulnerable beings, always susceptible to pain and struggle. For tempering our pain and seeing through difficult times, his words are joyous reminders.
I found his writings refreshing, as if they were truths buried within my subconscious. It is almost impossible to think differently, because popular culture has maintained its stronghold on our lives and on our psyche. This culture is enabled and supported by capitalism, which feeds on isolation and a mentality of “not enough” from the way we look to the way we live. So much so that we’ve evolved to view many of life’s necessities only in economic terms: buying time, investing in relationships, spending the day, etc. While consuming is the norm, Gibran offers an insight on the opposite: giving.
Read the rest of Gibran’s prose fables here, or if you enjoy holding the book like I do, check it out. I’m handing out some copies to friends and family this season, because his work deserves to be shared.
Note: All illustrations found in the blog were created by the Gibran himself.
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The Prophet by Kahlil Gibran
September 23, 1923
Alfred A. Knopf (96 pages)
Pia Cortez is a writer based in the San Francisco Bay Area. She runs a book blog called Libromance where she reviews books and publishes literary features with a queer Filipino immigrant lens. She is a contributor at Hella Pinay, an online magazine for Filipino-American women and at New Life Quarterly, a literary magazine based in Oakland, California. She is currently working on her first novel.