If you’ve ever looked for a good quote about love or relationships, or for some meaningful spiritual guidance, chances are you’ve run across a verse or two from Khalil Gibran’s The Prophet, first published in 1923. In fact, many a wedding has dispensed favors displaying Gibran’s wise words on unions:
“And stand together yet not too near together
For the pillars of the temple stand apart
And the oak tree and the cypress grow not in each other’s shadow …”
Translated into more than 20 languages, The Prophet is Gibran’s best-known work, and is illustrated with his famous charcoal drawings.
East meets West
Perhaps it was the sum total of the struggles of Gibran’s early life growing up in poverty in Lebanon and later in Boston: his difficult relationship with his father, the loss of two siblings and his mother within two years, and his influential relationships with two inspiring women (who both rejected his marriage proposals) that fueled his keen insights. The wisdom expressed in The Prophet truly represents and expresses the meeting of Eastern and Western ideals.
Early on he was mentored by a priest in his native Lebanon, and later his American art teachers encouraged and recognized his artistic talents. He slowly entered the cultural artistic world in Boston by meeting people who led him to stage his first art exhibition there in 1904. He later studied with sculptor August Rodin in Paris, finally settling in New York City in 1912. Though he died there at the age of 48 from cirrhosis and tuberculosis, his wish was to be buried in his native Lebanon.
Written in beautiful verse, The Prophet, which brought Gibran international acclaim, contains 27 much-quoted chapters, including: “On Children,” “On Love,” and “On Death.” Though he wrote and illustrated the book, it appeared to be channeled through divine inspiration, leading many in his circle to refer to him as a mystic. Some have even called his poetry metaphysical. History has proven Gibran to be an artistic philosopher, as The Prophet has never ceased to be in print. One of the most popular books of the 20th Century, the slim volume gained popularity during the counterculture of 1960s, and has inspired lovers, artists, and writers for decades.
If you go to Gibran’s work for guidance now, you will find that his writing has not lost its relevance. Perhaps ahead of his time, perhaps transcending all time, his words touch us no matter what the exterior changes in society are… no matter what our religion or nationality. Stripped of today’s technology and global transformations, we are all human, and there is more to us than even we sometimes comprehend, according to Gibran. This is in part the message of The Prophet’s chapter “On Time”:
“Yet the timeless in you is aware of life’s timelessness,
And knows that yesterday is but today’s memory and tomorrow is today’s dream.”
The next time you’re looking to understand the mysteries of life, or need to be reminded of your significance in the grand scheme of life and love, pick up any of Gibran’s writings, where you’ll find infinite peace and inspiration.
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