A book of meditations on various aspects of life by Kahlil Gibran. First published in 1923, as of this writing "The Prophet" has been through 132 reprintings. I think most of those reprintings were prompted by people buying the book because they heard excerpts from the chapters on love or marriage. They buy the book, they read those two chapters, they put the book on their bookshelf intending to read the rest of it later, and promptly forget about it. That's really a shame. Don't get me wrong, I like those two chapters, but they aren't the only ones in the book.
Alternately, some buy the book, try to read the rest of it, and find it boring and ponderous. At first, I was one of those people. My wife bought a copy for me, as we'd heard it at a wedding recently and I'd thought it very "deep". Unfortunately, as I sat on the couch next to her that evening reading through it, I began to get tired of it. I apologetically told her so.
"Like what?" she asked, marking her spot in "The Fifties", which she was rereading for the third time. "Read me a bit of it."
I read the last section of the chapter "On Work":
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.
Finishing, I paused in thought. "Oh, now I get it. It's poetic prose that should be spoken aloud. Or at least spoken in my head as I read. Thanks."
She smiled, "No problem. I liked that. Maybe you can read it to me later as a bedtime story." She returned to her book then, but later that's exactly what we did. I started over, this time reading it aloud, as much listening to the sound of the words as what they said. Much better.
Interestingly, it contains no chapters specifically on war, hate, sex, and I have to wonder why. Perhaps Gibran just didn't have a way to speak to them directly. Still, parts of other chapters do address these subjects: pleasure or beauty certainly apply to sex, and I think the opening to "good and evil" addresses war and hate rather well:
Of the good in you I can speak, but not of the evil.
For what is evil but good tortured by its own hunger and thirst?
Verily when good is hungry it seeks food even in dark caves, and when it thirsts, it drinks even of dead waters.
Like any poetic or spiritual writing "The Prophet" isn't for everyone, but also like similar works, such as Desiderata or Invictus, every time I read from it helps to calm and center my thoughts.
Notes on The Prophet on E2:
I preserved the formatting, keeping line lenghts and paragraph breaks the same. I added comments of my own after each chapter, but also included links to the next chapter before them some you can easily skip past if you want to.
Many books of verse have a marking to indicate the reader should "pause and reflect". For E2, I'll use a "section" symbol:
Oh, finally, in respect for the copyright of the work, I've stopped transcribing this and removed all but two of the shortest chapters where my commentary meets fair use guidelines. If you like what you read in these two remaining chapaters, go out and buy the book.
Table of Contents
- The Coming of the Ship
- On Love
- On Marriage
- On Children
- On Giving
- On Eating and Drinking
- On Work
- On Joy and Sorrow
- On Houses
- On Clothes
- On Buying and Selling
- On Crime and Punishment
- On Laws
- On Freedom
- On Reason and Passion
- On Pain
- On Self-Knowledge
- On Teaching
- On Friendship
- On Talking
- On Time
- On Good and Evil
- On Prayer
- On Pleasure
- On Beauty
- On Religion
- On Death
- The Farewell