Monday, September 27, 2010

The Prophet by Kahlil Gibran

Let not the waves of the sea separate us now, and the years you have spent in our midst become a memory. You have walked among us a spirit and your shadow has been a light upon our faces. Much have we loved you. But speechless was our love, and with veils has it been veiled. Yet now it cries aloud unto you, and would stand revealed before you. And ever has it been that love knows not its own depth until the hour of separation.

As Almustafa prepares to sail away on the ship that steadily calls him to his true home, the people of his city cry that they wish him to tarry a while longer and abide with them. They did not say it before, but they love him dearly, and won't he just wait?

The Prophet, so some reviewers would have me know, is one of Kahlil Gibran's greatest works. I had never heard of him or it until a classmate told me that it would be a beautiful challenge for me to read. Well, who am I to turn down a dare, especially one so short as this?

With the very first paragraph, Gibran had me. He captures that same mystic poetry of Rumi in the cage of prose with such lines as, "Then the gates of his heart were flung open, and his joy flew far over the sea. And he closed his eyes and prayed in the silences of his soul." Heartwrenching, almost, because something there is that understands that ecstasy in all its violence and glory.

A basic plot breakdown: a bunch of very brief essays on practically every topic you can think of that are bookended by the story of Almustafa's "journey" or, less poetically, his death. His thoughts are lofty and lovely, although I stand by what I said in returning the book to the aforementioned classmate: "It is at times beautiful because it is true, at other times dangerously so because it is not." It is very easy to follow the beauty of his words to an agreement with his conclusions, which are at times less than wholesome.

Nonetheless, I think I was up to the challenge and had a rather good time of it, no less. In other words, great book, but not the most amazing source of personal philosophy that I've ever read.

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