We find Almustafa, the hero of Kahlil Gibran’s wonderful book of poetry “The Prophet”, orating before villagers of a foreign land his views on love. On the eve of his departure, after 12 years away from the land of his ancient mother, the seeress, Almitra, has asked our prophet to offer his wisdom and ease the sorrowful hearts of the villagers. “Speak to us of love”, she said, our prophet responded:
“When love beckons to you follow him, Though his ways are hard and steep. And when his wings enfold you yield to him, Though the sword hidden among his pinions may wound you. And when he speaks to you believe in him, Though his voice may shatter your dreams as the north wind lays waste the garden. For even as love crowns you so shall he crucify you. Even as he is for your growth so is he for your pruning.”
In practice, love requires prodigious effort, vulnerability, and the deepest rooted faith in humanity; a trust in the mystery that rests beyond our eye. The myth of effortless love, the placement of wealth and status above people, and the impatience of every lonely man is revealed as immature and illusory once Almustafa statement is understood:
“Even as he ascends to your height and caresses your tenderest branches that quiver in the sun, So shall he descend to your roots and shake them in their clinging to the earth. Love gives naught but itself and takes naught but from itself.”
Listening to our rhythms we discover our internal life; this discovery allows us to unlock the wellspring of anger, guilt, shame, joy, and love contained in all our actions. What was once inarticulable slowly rises to the surface of our heart. Through our self-exploration and the allowing of someone to reveal themselves we discover that love will often hurt us. Our obligation is to remove the unnecessary pain and free ourselves from the limitations that cause us to look at love as an impossibility. Allowing life to unfold as we make ourselves anew. Almustafa captures love’s complexity this when he says:
For even as love crowns you so shall he
crucify you. Even as he is for your growth
so is he for your pruning.
Even as he ascends to your height and
caresses your tenderest branches that quiver
in the sun,
So shall he descend to your roots and
shake them in their clinging to the earth.
Like sheaves of corn he gathers you unto
He threshes you to make you naked.
He sifts you to free you from your husks.
He grinds you to whiteness.
He kneads you until you are pliant;
And then he assigns you to his sacred
fire, that you may become sacred bread for
God’s sacred feast.
If we can remake ourselves with love we can appreciate the joy contained in the discomfort of growth. So often we attempt to grow on our own terms, but the sorrow and joy of our love is inseparable. Recognizing the beauty found in pain and the joy found in heartbreak happens deep inside our approach to the world; we consecrate the world around us and glorify the mundane. Love will always evade us if we attempt to avoid pain. As our prophet says:
But if in your fear you would seek only
love’s peace and love’s pleasure,
Then it is better for you that you cover
your nakedness and pass out of love’s
Into the seasonless world where you
shall laugh, but not all of your laughter,
and weep, but not all of your tears.
Love becomes a place to consistently redefine ourselves; as we learn to embrace our distance from the world, a distance that rests beside our interconnection, we learn to release control over our lovers and allow them to be fully human. The word with strange connotations, love, has gone through many transformations; for children it’s emotion; for spiritualists it’s energy; for Othellas and Don Mcdonald, my grandparents, that embodied the phrase “Till Death do us part”, it was rhythm, embrace and consistency. Almustafa expresses the respect of each other’s distance when he says:
Love gives naught but itself and takes
naught but from itself.
Love possesses not nor would it be
For love is sufficient unto love.
As our prophet elevates love to the status of a faceless angel, a God that is always sitting on your shoulder, and even an ethereal beauty the overall message is giving grace to those with flesh. To have loving intentions as we close the distance between one another. The aim is to accept the responsibility love brings, and treat each other with more grace and compassion. Love must reach the most intimate part of our lives. As Almustafa states beautifully in closing:
Love has no other desire but to fulfil
But if you love and must needs have
desires, let these be your desires:
To melt and be like a running brook
that sings its melody to the night.
To know the pain of too much tenderness.
To be wounded by your own under-
standing of love;
And to bleed willingly and joyfully.
To wake at dawn with a winged heart
and give thanks for another day of loving;
To rest at the noon hour and meditate
To return home at eventide with gratitude;
And then to sleep with a prayer for the
beloved in your heart and a song of praise
upon your lips.
Exploring the spiritual nature of love, and how this sacred act of reciprocity is nurtured in both receiver and giver Almustafa gives the wisdom necessary for entering the heart of the almighty. A wonderful concise book that displays a spiritually mature love aimed at recognizing the God in one another is a piece of literature the world needs apart of their library. Kahlil Gibran’s The Prophet is a wonderful book.