A Guide for Living Our Best Lives, with Kahlil Gibran

Book Reviews, Soul + Spirit

theprophet

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.

on-love

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.

A Different Way of Looking, with Marcel Proust and Alain de Botton

Book Reviews, Soul + Spirit, Writing

What I know of Marcel Proust: nada. What I know of Alain de Botton: quite a lot, although not personally, but enough for me to dive deep into one of his books, How Proust Can Change Your Life (Shop your local indie bookstore).

One of the things that I’ve truly been enamored with Proust/de Botton’s compendium is a new way of looking: of a character in one of Proust’s essays where he forces a dissatisfied youth to take in Jean-Baptiste Chardin’s paintings of mundane things, not-so-special moments: of bowls of fruit, loaves of bread, kitchen utensils, one reading a book, a mother showing her daughter some mistakes in needlework as opposed to paintings in the Louvre’s “grand palaces painted by Veronese, harbor scenes by Claude, and princely lives by Van Dyck.” That there is beauty in a lot of things that is already around us, and that we are just plainly inattentive to these details. de Botton points out this lack of capacity of seeing beauty is not due to laziness or inattention, but more so because we are inexperienced with looking. 

The happiness that may emerge from taking a second look is central to Proust’s therapeutic conception. It reveals the extent to which our dissatisfactions may be the result of failing to look properly at our lives rather than the result of anything inherently deficient about them. Appreciating the beauty of crusty loaves does not preclude our interest in a chateau, but failing to do so must call into question our overall capacity for appreciation.