The Prophet

Prose Poetry Fables on the Beauty of Life and the Human Condition

Unearthing Humanity’s Timeless Truths

Have you ever questioned the relevance of century-old wisdom in our high-speed, tech-driven world? Can Kahlil Gibran’s pocket-sized offering of spiritual guidance possibly remain significant or influential in the present day?

Surprisingly, The Prophet isn’t merely relevant—it’s revolutionary. Never once going out of print, its sales continue to escalate annually, a testament to its transformative potency. This makes it an ideal gift for eighteenth birthdays, a condensed, potent, and beautifully crafted manual of wisdom at a critical juncture of one’s life.

Yet its timelessness transcends age boundaries. All can flourish from its deep reflections on love, marriage, childhood, pain, happiness, friendship, work, and death—insights that promise to retain their importance over the next century, as they did in the last.

Having resided in Orphalese for 12 years, the prophet Almustafa is setting sail back to “the isle of his birth.” As his ship prepares to dock, the city’s denizens gather, seizing their final chance to drink from the fountain of his profound wisdom. “Reveal us to ourselves,” one person implores, “and tell us all that has been shown to you of that which lies between birth and death.”

Almustafa begins with love, considering it the most pivotal theme that pervades almost all other subjects. Love, he insists, should be liberally given and expects nothing in return. Consequently, love in its purest form neither seeks possession nor wishes to be possessed.

Next, he talks about marriage, describing it as the eternal union of two souls bound by love. But within this unity, he emphasizes the need for space—for both partners to breathe and evolve. Just like the oak tree and the cypress can’t thrive in each other’s shadows, love should allow room for individual growth.

Lastly, he delves into childhood, a domain based on non-possessive love. Almustafa reminds parents that their children are not their belongings but the bearers of the future. Parents serve merely as guardians, guiding them along their destined paths.

Embracing Joy, Sorrow, and Pain

Switching to joy and sorrow, Almustafa advises viewing these emotions as inseparable and intertwined. They are the inevitable components of life, feeding off each other. As he states, “the deeper sorrow carves into your being, the more joy you can contain.” Therefore, understanding immense sadness enables us to appreciate true happiness.

A citizen then requests Almustafa to speak about pain. He describes pain as resulting from the “breaking of the shell,” a shell that had concealed or overlooked a spiritual truth.

Pain, therefore, signifies growth. The painful cracking of the shell allows sunlight to nourish the soul, making us wiser, more mature, and knowledgeable. Hence, pain must be embraced with grace, as it is as much a miraculous life event as joy.

The Spiritual Significance of Houses and Clothes

Transitioning to houses, Almustafa acknowledges the necessity of dwellings and cities in human life but urges the citizens not to lose their spiritual connection with nature.

He expresses longing for a world where valleys are our streets, and vineyards our alleyways, urging us to carry the fragrance of the earth in our clothes. Almustafa cautions us about the risk of losing our spiritual relationship with the natural world amid urbanization.

Regarding clothes, while they serve a protective purpose and differentiate us as human beings, they also hide our innate beauty. Almustafa encourages us to “meet the sun and the wind with more of our skin” to experience life’s breath and touch more vividly

Dwellings and Attire

Our guide takes us next to the subject of housing. He acknowledges that homes and urban environments are integral to our modern lives, yet he urges us at AstraEd not to forsake our spiritual ties to the green woods and the open fields.

Almustafa dreams of a world where our avenues are valleys, and rows of grapevines form our lanes. He hopes that we would “arrive with the earth’s scent on our clothing” and cautions that we are in danger of severing our spiritual connection to the natural world.

He attributes the gradual progression of urbanization to our forebears’ quest for security, luxury, and comfort. In the same breath, he brings our attention to our souls, “which dwell limitless within us, inhabit the mansion of the sky, enter through a door of morning fog, and view the world through the songs and quiet of the night.”

He takes a comparable stance on the topic of clothing. Yes, clothes are practical, shielding us from harsh weather – and yes, they help define us as a distinct species. But clothing can also hide our natural beauty. We might seek liberation or seclusion in our attire, but this is a mirage – in reality, they can become “a yoke and a shackle.”

Almustafa encourages us to “embrace the sun and the wind with more of our bare skin” and less of our attire. That’s how we can experience the breath and touch of life itself.

Rules, Misconduct, and Consequences

Our spiritual mentor doesn’t hold human-devised laws in high regard. He likens the legal system to children constructing and demolishing sandcastles, asserting that we whimsically enact and nullify laws.

Initially, he advises that we should aim for liberation from our self-imposed laws by disregarding them – heeding only the duty not to harm anyone and to cherish all life forms. By doing this, we can uncover spiritual contentment.

To Almustafa, such an obligation is inherent in the laws of nature. It’s an eternal moral axiom that resonates with his introductory discourse on love.

The sage presents a striking parallel between human-created laws and the laws of nature in the realm of music. He suggests that you can “muffle the drum, and you can slacken the lyre’s strings, but who shall decree the skylark to stop its song?” The skylark pays no mind to the trivial laws of humans.

Conversely, the prophet also offers substantial insights on wrongdoing and the subsequent penalties. Advocating a philosophy of extreme forgiveness, he reminds the inhabitants of Orphalese that a lawbreaker is a person like any other.

He likens an individual who has committed a crime to someone stumbling on a path – it serves as a caution to those trailing, and a source of disgrace for those ahead who failed to clear the obstacle.

Finally, Almustafa asserts that there can be no sterner punishment – or cure – than a person’s own remorse for a misdeed. He queries, “How can you penalize those whose regret already outweighs their transgressions?”

Logic and Sentiment

Our guide further elucidates on two aspects typically seen as adversarial: logic and sentiment.

Instead of considering these forces as perpetually conflicting within our psyche, we should strive to understand their equal significance to our human nature. In reality, they coexist in harmony, each complementing the other.

Almustafa draws an analogy between logic as the rudder of a ship, and sentiment as its sails. A ship without either would be entirely dysfunctional; it requires both, operating in tandem, to navigate vast seas. As with a sail, we should allow our zeal and emotions to supply the momentum for our life’s journey. Simultaneously, we should permit logic, akin to a rudder, to guide this momentum to its rightful terminus.

With the illustration of honoring two guests in your home, the prophet concludes this thought by stating, “Surely you would not prioritize one guest over the other; for he who is more mindful of one loses the affection and trust of both.”

Companionship and Discourse

Next, we delve into some profound reflections on companionship. This topic is crucial for the prophet, as it reiterates his emphasis on love.

To Almustafa, companionship represents a spiritual bonding of two hearts and souls. Friends nourish us by generously offering love, joy, solace, and tranquility, and by establishing an ambiance of trust for sharing thoughts.

He cautions against offering friends your spare time or your “hours to kill.” Instead, he urges us to share our “hours to live.” That’s because the genuine purpose of friendship is a mutual enrichment of each other’s spirits. Almustafa affirms that friendship is founded in love – not a net striving to catch or possess anything.

He concludes with this wisdom: “In the sweetness of your companionship, let there be laughter and the sharing of pleasures. For in the dew of little things, the heart discovers its morning and is rejuvenated.”

The prophet then segues into the topic of discourse. He asserts that we often resort to talking when we feel uneasy with our thoughts, or when we’re trying to evade the solitude in our hearts.

Moreover, excessive talking obstructs us from contemplating profoundly and uncovering our authentic selves. This is frequently a conscious strategy – those who chatter incessantly often do so out of fear of what silence, and the opportunity for self-reflection, might expose.

In contrast, the prophet proclaims, “The spirit resides in rhythmic silence.”

Enjoyment and Aesthetics

It may be unexpected that Almustafa, a sage so connected with the spiritual aspects of existence, who values silence and nature over speech and urban landscapes, promotes the pursuit of pleasure.

He preaches that pleasure is one of life’s magnificent gifts; we should reminisce about pleasurable experiences fondly, not remorsefully. We shouldn’t deny ourselves enjoyment for fear of damaging our spiritual well-being – quite the contrary. If we suppress pleasure, an internal yearning grows, leading to pressure and discomfort seeking release.

Almustafa uses the analogy of the bee and the flower. The bee finds pleasure in gathering a flower’s nectar – to the bee, a flower is a “fountain of life.” The flower, in turn, experiences pleasure in providing its nectar to the bee, enabling its reproduction. The bee serves as a “messenger of love” for the flower. According to our prophet, “the exchange of pleasure is a necessity and an ecstasy.”

This segues into a discourse on aesthetics. He advocates that beauty is subjective – it varies among individuals. Furthermore, he asserts, the part of us perceiving beauty isn’t the eyes, nose, ears, or skin. It’s the soul.

For Almustafa, the essence of beauty is “life when it unveils its sacred face.” He refers to the infinite nature of life itself – of the soul that animates all living beings. When we perceive beauty, what we genuinely witness is the precious gift of life.

Temporality and Mortality

Finally, let’s delve into two of Almustafa’s most profound subjects: temporality and mortality.

Humans, he observes, have an unusual fixation with quantifying, partitioning, and regulating time – but this misconstrues the authentic nature of time. The soul within us, the fundamental life force, is timeless. As our soul forms the critical component of our existence, we are, in essence, timeless and eternal. And if we introspect deeply enough, we can sense this eternity within us.

At this point, Almustafa reiterates the concept of love and compares it to time’s eternity. Just like the soul, he states, love is infinite and resides at our being’s core.

Death resembles time – it’s a gateway to the everlasting, and should be welcomed rather than feared. As joy and sorrow are interlinked, so are life and death. Just as we can’t disconnect the river from the sea, we can’t dissociate life from death.

Thus, when confronting death, we shouldn’t shudder from fear but from delight. According to the prophet, death liberates our souls to “rise, expand, and seek God unencumbered.”

Final Recap

As you advance on your personal journey, bear in mind that elements seemingly in binary opposition – like joy and sorrow or life and death – are, in fact, beautifully and inseparably interconnected; you can’t have one without the other.

Furthermore, love pervades and underpins everything. It constitutes the bedrock upon which anything of significance in our world should be built.

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