The Prophet By Kahlil Gibran

Sometimes a book finds you, not the other way around.  Last year I attended my first Friends of the San Francisco Public Library ginormous book sale and while going through the aisles, The Prophet presented itself.  It stood out in its mysterious book sleeve like a misplaced antique among a sea of modern art.

I knew there had to be some wisdom in the pages.  After reading it, my hunch was confirmed.

What’s the big idea?

This poetry is centered around a man, Almustafa, who had been waiting twelve years for his ship to return and bring him back to his isle of birth.  Overjoyed the day the ship arrived to take him home, he is suddenly struck with sadness knowing he’ll be leaving the city that’s been such a part of him.

The whole town gathered asking him not to leave them since he’s been so helpful and inspirational sharing the knowledge he’s gathered from his many voyages.

He then simply asked, “People of Orphalese, of what can I speak save of that which is now moving within your souls?”  and proceeded to give insights on topics of love, marriage, children, giving, eating and drinking, working, and the list goes on.

Derek Sivers made a lot of sense when he stated that if people trust the source they’re more likely to listen to what is being directed towards them.  The people of the town trusted Almustafa and he gave them insights to live by.

The Prophet is worth reading to question your current assumptions of these main life areas and analyze them one by one.  Some might be reaffirmed and some might be changed. Both of which are positive for your growth.

How does the author know?

Gibran is the third best-selling poet of all time, behind Shakespeare and Laozi.  Not bad company to be in.

After his father was put in prison for tax evasion, his family was left homeless.  His mother decided to immigrate to the US and on June 25, 1895, they voyaged to New York from Lebanon.  Gibran spent much of his time in Boston displaying his art in galleries before getting recognized for his writing, which became influential in the 1960s.  Gibran passed in 1931.

What should you do?

Use this book as an outline of sorts to question your underlying viewpoints on the topics he comments on.  Take what you like and discard what you don’t.

I found it better the second time through, especially waiting a few months in between.

Ray Dalio, one of the most successful hedge fund investors, recommends creating a set of principles that you live your life by to guide you through the ups and downs.  This book is a solid place to start.

Raw notes:

    • People don’t always show their true emotions or thoughts until you leave.
    • Share what you can teach.
  • On love:
    • And think not you can direct the course of love, for love if it finds you worthy, directs your course.
    • Love, what will be will be.
  • On marriage:
    • But let there be spaces in your togetherness, and let the winds of the heavens dance between you.
    • Fill each other’s cup but drink not from one cup.
    • Give one another your bread but eat not from the same loaf.
    • Sing and dance together and be joyous, but let each one of you be alone.
    • Each person in the relationship needs to be their own person, each person being a wall that supports the roof of the house.
  • On children:
    • Let your bending in the Archer’s hand be for gladness; for even as He loves the arrow that flies, so He loves also the bow that is stable.
      • Stable parents that let you be you, without controlling are the best parents.
  • On giving:
    • You give but little when you give of your possessions.
    • It is when you give of yourself that you truly give.
    • It is well to give when asked, but it is better to give unasked, through understanding.
    • Therefore give now, that the season of giving may be yours and not your inheritors’.
    • Surely he who is worthy to receive his days and his nights, is worthy of all else from you.
    • Giving is the greatest rewards.
    • See first that you yourself deserve to be a giver, and an instrument of giving.
    • For in truth it is life that gives unto life — while you, who deem yourself a giver, are but a witness.
  • On eating and drinking:
    • And let your board stand an altar on which the pure and the innocent of forest and plain are sacrificed for that which is purer and still more innocent in man.
    • Have respect for that which gave up their life or fruit to fill your existence.
  • On working:
    • You work that you may keep pace with the earth and the soul of the earth.
    • For to be idle is to become a stranger unto the seasons, and to step out of life’s procession, that marches in majesty and proud submission towards the infinite.
    • And to love life through labour is to be intimate with life’s inmost secret.
    • And he alone is great who turns the voice of the wind into a song made sweeter by his own loving.
    • Work is love made visible.
    • If you hate your work, STOP, you’re ruining the world.
  • On joy and sorrow:
    • The deeper that sorrow carves into your being, the more joy you can contain.
    • When you are sorrowful look again in your heart, and you shall see that in truth you are weeping for that which has been your delight.
  • On houses:
    • Your house is your larger body.
    • Verily the lust for comfort murders the passion of the soul, and then walks grinning in the funeral.
    • Live outside of the house.
  • On clothes:
    • Your clothes conceal much of your beauty, yet they hide the unbeautiful.
    • And forget not that the earth delights to feel your bare feet and the winds long to play with your hair.
  • On buying and selling:
    • It is in exchanging the gifts of the earth that you shall find abundance and be satisfied.
    • Yet unless the exchange be in love and kindly justice, it will but lead some to greed and others to hunger.
    • Invoke the master spirit of the earth, to come into your midst and sanctify the scales and the reckoning that weighs value against value.
    • For the master spirit of the earth shall not sleep peacefully upon the wind till the needs of the least of you are satisfied.
  • On crime and punishment:
    • So the wrong-doer cannot do wrong without the hidden will of you all.
    • We are a system, if one falls, we all fall.
    • And that the cornerstone of the temple is not higher than the lowest stone in its foundation.
  • On laws:
    • You delight in laying down laws, yet you delight more in breaking them.
  • On freedom:
    • And my heart bled within me; for you can only be free when even the desire of seeking freedom comes a harness to you, and when you cease to speak of freedom as a goal and a fulfilment.
  • On reason and passion:
    • Your soul is often a battlefield, upon which your reason and your judgement wage war against your passion and your appetite.
    • Your reason and your passion are the rudder and the sails of your seafaring soul.
    • You too should rest in reason and move in passion.
  • On pain:
    • Your pain is the breaking of the shell that encloses your understanding.
    • Much of your pain is self-chosen.
  • On self-knowledge:
    • But let there be no scales to weigh your unknown treasure; and seek not the depths of your knowledge with staff or sounding line.  For self is a sea boundless and measureless.
    • Knowledge is endless, don’t try to measure and box it in.
      • Endless means don’t think you’ve found the end of all truth, you’ve just found a truth.
  • On teaching:
    • If he is indeed wise he does not bid you enter the house of his wisdom, but rather leads you to the threshold of your own mind.
    • For the vision of one man lends not its wings to another man.
  • On friendship:
    • Your friend is your needs answered.  He is your field which you sow with love and reap with thanksgiving.
    • For it is his to fill your need, but not your emptiness.
  • On talking:
    • You talk when you cease to be at peace with your thoughts.
    • And in much of your talking, thinking is half murdered.
  • On time:
    • Yesterday is but today’s memory and tomorrow is today’s dream.
  • On good and evil:
    • Life is like a river.  Some move fast, some eddy slowly, all are water nonetheless.
  • On pleasure:
    • Remember your pleasures with gratitude.
  • On beauty:
    • Beauty is not a need but an ecstasy.
  • On religion:
    • Your daily life is your temple and your religion.  Whenever you enter into it take with you your all.
    • For in adoration you cannot fly higher than their hopes nor humble yourself lower than their despair.
  • More:
    • Man’s needs change, but not his love, nor his desire that his love should satisfy his needs.
    • To measure you by your smallest deed is to reckon the power of ocean by the frailty of its foam.
    • Vague and nebulous is the beginning of all things, but not their end.
    • Patient, over patient, is the captain of my ship.