The changing of the seasons is a mirror to the life happening inside us; the subtle transitions of pain and joy is no different than the ice melting from the earth and flowers budding in its place. The quality of our work crumbles when our impatience births jealousy; when our distrust of life produces apathy; when living lives other people chose for us produces bitterness. Kahlil Gibran, speaking through Almustafa, captures the idea of divine work; carving purpose from the difficulty of our work, and demands ourselves to discover the strength contained in our internal reservoir. Work that is made perfect through the transformation of our sorrow into joy is love made visible.
The eve of our prophet’s departure the seeress, Almitra, has gathered the villagers before Almustafa and requested that he nourish their hearts with wisdom. Knowing this would be the last time orating before his adopted brothers and sisters tears ran down his cheeks; the transitions in our life are sudden, but within those moments of discomfort we overlook the relationships and love formed. They began asking him questions of love, marriage, children, but then a ploughman stepped forward saying, “Speak to us of Work.” Our Prophet responded:
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.
Our heart is found in the subtle acts of creation practiced throughout our day; the patience of preparing food, the presence of conversations, and the recognition of divinity working throughout our lives reveals the depths of our heart. If loved, building tables with our bare hands will contain the breathe of our spirit, but many people have given their lives to corporations that steal their identity. People despise their jobs and began to associate “work” with drudgery and compliance, but conscious work is a practice that contains both the joys and pains of life. We need more love in our life. Love placed in nature, love placed in cooking, love placed in presence, and love that is not reliant on another person. Through the patient building of love in our lives beauty rises from the ice that once covered our eyes. Almustafa, making clear the beauty of doing work aligned with our mission, says:
But I say to you that when you work you fulfil a part of earth’s furthest dream, assigned to you when the dream was born,
And in keeping yourself with labour you are in truth loving life,
And to love life through labour is to be intimate with life’s inmost secret.
Overcoming our fear of judgement allows us to walk into ourselves and follow our dreams to the finish line. The reward is the birth of our higher selves. Overhearing conversations about family members suffering, some caused by their own hand and others the devil working overtime in their lives, always confused me, as a child, when they would arrive and involve themselves effortlessly in the familial activities. I understood, as I grew older, that darkness and light rest forever beside one another; my father’s laugh was so powerful because he was happy to smile, and the prayers of my mother every time a car parked began the day after she left a car crash unharmed. I learned how tears are cleansing, and embracing the eternal truth of our darkness and light forever remaining side by side balances us. As our prophet, makes clear about the importance of recognizing this darkness, says:
You have been told also that life is darkness, and in your weariness you echo what was said by the weary.
And I say that life is indeed darkness save when there is 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.
Through love we bring ourselves back to the craft, and diving into the fear of failure allows us to create a safe-haven for people suffering from the paralyzing affliction. Exploring every crevice of our heart allows us, if honest and brave enough, to fill our art with our essence; through an approach of gentleness, tenderness, and care we breathe life into our crafts. Our prophet, eloquently expressing how the ancestors watch us continue to build off the foundation left for us, says:
And what is it to work with love?
It is to weave the cloth with threads drawn from your heart, even as if your beloved were to wear that cloth.
It is to build a house with affection, even as if your beloved were to dwell in that house.
It is to sow seeds with tenderness and reap the harvest with joy, even as if your beloved were to eat the fruit.
It is to charge all things you fashion with a breath of your own spirit,
And to know that all the blessed dead are standing about you and watching.
We must love work, and understand the necessity of suffering and ciphering through confusion in order to better our craft. Our work comes to life as we fill every line with our essence; our love is made visible through love. As people read our work, feel our energy, taste our food, and even listen to the rhythm in our voice they can sense our love. Our prophet expressing the necessity of doing our work with love similar to the beautiful quote from Bell Hook in her wonderful collection of essays in The Female Search for Love, “Love is a combination of care, commitment, knowledge, responsibility, respect and trust” says:
Work is love made visible.
And if you cannot work with love but only with distaste, it is better that you should leave your work and sit at the gate of the temple and take alms of those who work with joy.
For if you bake bread with indifference, you bake a bitter bread that feeds but half man’s hunger.
And if you grudge the crushing of the grapes, your grudge distils a poison in the wine.
And if you sing though as angels, and love not the singing, you muffle man’s ears to the voices of the day and the voices of the night.
We live a world where the term work is associated with drudgery, difficulty, and conforming, but Almustafa reminds us work is the breathing of our essence into a craft. The corporate world has twisted our definition of work into something hated and anxiety inducing; when someone tells us love is work, art is work, healing is work we immediately become a little hesitant to embrace this truth. Kahlil Gibran captures the importance of having meaningful work in our lives; a book filled with delightful aphorisms on love, joy, and work The Prophet continues to prove itself as indispensable for our spiritual development.