The Prophet

When I was in high school, the band Mad Season recorded the song River of Deceit, which began with the following lines:

My pain, is self-chosen

At least, so the Prophet says

I never really understood it, but it took on a bit more poignancy when Layne Staley, the lead singer and songwriter, later died of a heroin overdose.

Recently, I began to understand a bit more where the lyrics came from, as Karim gave me a copy of Kahlil Gibran‘s The Prophet and I read it on the honeymoon.

In the passage On Pain, Gibran writes:

Much of your pain is self-chosen.

It is the bitter potion by which the physician within you heals your sick self.

Therefore trust the physician, and drink his remedy in silence and tranquility;

The book is littered with brilliant insights.  Here are some of my favourites.

From the opening chapter:

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 loves knows not its own depth until the hour of separation.

From the section On Work comes the following:

You have been told also that life is darkness, and in our weariness you echo what was said by the weary.

And I say that life is indeed darkness save when there is an urge,

And all urge is blind save when there is knowledge,

And all knowledge is vain save when there is work,

And all work is empty save when there is love;

And when you work with love you bind yourself to yourself, and to one another, and to God.

Or the following from On Joy and Sorrow:

Your joy is your sorrow unmasked;

And the selfsame well from which your laughter rises was oftentimes filled with your tears.

The book goes on and on (actually, it’s only 96 large type pages) with more great verses; let me close with one from On Teaching:

The astronomer may speak to you of his understanding of space, but he cannot give you his understanding.

The musician may sing to you of the rhythm which is in all space, but he cannot give you the ear which arrest the rhythm nor the voice that echoes it.

And he who is versed in the science of numbers can tell of the regions of weight and measure, but he cannot conduct you thither.

For the vision of one man lends not its wings to another man.