Gibran and his creative wisdom | Daily News

Gibran and his creative wisdom

A medical doctor living in England once told me that since reading the Lebanese-American writer, poet, playwright and painter, Kahlil Gibran (1883 – 1931), he had changed his scientific profession to more of a spiritual healing process. I was so inquisitive that raised some questions to help build a better climate of opinion on Gibran and his healing process.

“It’s a matter of reading Gibran that matters. Start reading the work or the book titled ‘The Prophet’. Then proceed on to ‘A Tear and A Smile’. You come across short creative parables, observations, human experiences on matters such as birth, growing up, love, greed, hunger, sickness and death. But most of the creative sketches help you to understand who you are.”

I managed to purchase a copy of the complete works of Kahlil Gibran, a compilation of twelve books in one volume sans the name of the compiler and other details perhaps wanted by students.

Different titles

The volume I possess is published in India by Indiana publishing House in 2008. Out of those twelve books some have appeared perhaps earlier and the titles given differ. The order of the arrangements too differs. Prior to the publication of the complete works, there had been random isolated single books translated from the Lebanese Arabic language to English by various hands. Then later on when Gibran spent his last 25 years in America, he began to write some of his works in English with the help of a few others. The work titled Kahlil Gibran, The Voice of Kahlil Gibran, an anthology as edited by Robin Waterfield (Arkana, Penguin Books 1993) is one such example.

In this volume, quite a number of creative pieces are culled from works of Gibran such as The Prophet (1923), The Broken Wings (1912), A Tear and a Smile (1914), Spiritual Sayings (1962); Gibran commences his creative writing mixed in philosophy via the work titled The Madman (1918). This contained a series of parables and poems that disseminate knowledge and wisdom on day to day matters. The title looks rather ironic, as they are not narrated by mere insanity but via a penetrative vision.

At the outset the narrator seems to say:

“You ask me how I became a madman. It happened thus: one day long before many gods were born, I woke from a deep sleep and found all my masks were stolen – the seven masks I have fashioned and worn in seven lives – I ran maskless through the crowded streets shouting, ‘thieves, thieves and cursed thieves’ (135pp). When everybody ran to rescue from the madman, a youth standing on a house top had said: “He is a madman. Then the following line appears: “I looked up to behold him, the sun kissed my own naked face and my soul was inflamed with the love for the sun and I wanted my masks no more.” (135pp)

From here onwards, the madman becomes a saint who says quite a lot of wise sayings that entice the attention. Thus the question of who is a god is answered. The sketch on ‘My friend’ explaining who a good friend is reminding one of the concept of ‘Kalyana Mitra’ in Buddhist literature. Quite a number of parables appear. One quite a short parable as uttered by the madman goes as follows:

“Once there lived a man who had a valley full of needles. One day the mother of Jesus came to him and said:

Friend my son’s garment is torn and I must need to mend it before he goeth to the temple. Would thou not give me a needle? And he gave her not a needle, but he gave her a learned discourse on giving and taking to carry to her son before he should go to the temple.” (140pp)

Much discussed aphorism

From the sensitive and penetrative episodes of the madman, the reader could proceed to the much discussed aphorism and prophesies of Gibran. Most of them appear in his work ‘A Tear and a Smile’. Once translated from the original Arabic and later written afresh by Gibran himself. I wish to present a few that I prefer.

“God has made many doors opening into truth which He opens to all who knock them with hands of faith.”

“It is the mind that yields to the laws made by us, but never the spirit in us.”

“Beauty is that which attracts your soul and that which loves to give and not to receive.”

“Poetry is not an opinion expressed. It is a song that rises from a bleeding wound or a smiling mouth.”

“A poet is a dethroned king, sitting among the ashes of his palace, trying to fashion an image out of the ashes.”

“A singer cannot delight you with his singing unless he himself delights to sing.”

Scholars believe that Gibran who was born near Mount Lebanon had the advantage of perceiving the knowledge the oral folk and religious knowledge transmitted over the years. The millions of Arabic-speaking people were familiar with his original writings and considered him a sort of a poet cum saint and a genius. Gibran for many years happened to be the leader of a Lebanese literary circle in New York prior to his demise in 1931. Works of Gibran are translated from time to time into more than 20 world languages, inclusive of Sinhala and Tamil. A well known scholar Claude Bragden once said:

“His (Gibran’s) power came from some great reservoir of spiritual life, else it could not have been so universal and so potent, but the majesty and beauty of the language with which he clothed were all his own.” 


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