What Today Brings
“Love one another, but make not a bond of love. Let it rather be a moving sea between the shores of your souls.” – Kahlil Gibran
Kahlil Gibran, the Lebanese poet and author, knew much about love and loss, about struggle and sacrifice, he knew about the world, about poverty and riches as he experienced both. He knew about the danger of ostracizing a people because of what they believe or because they are different. Gibran was born in Mount Lebanon Mutasarrifate, a subdivision of the Ottoman empire. He was born just 20 years after the civil war in this vicinity of Beirut, the civil war that ended in a massacre, monasteries were burned and monks were killed, in fact ten thousand Christians were killed.
Kahlil’s father was a bit troubled, a gambler that was imprisoned for a time. Due to the impoverished nature of his family, he was unable to garner a formal education. His grandfather was a priest and fellow priests visited the young Gibran regularly to educate him. How common this story is, someone with limited means and advantages, who end up rising above and becoming teachers themselves.
The author, painter and poet emigrated with his mother to the United States, specifically Boston, when he was 13. He studied with the avant-garde artists of the time while his mother worked as a seamstress in Boston’s south end, one of the largest Syrian-Lebanese-American communities of the time. He wrote in both Arabic and English and returned to Beirut at 15 to study at a higher education arts institute, al-Hikma (The Wisdom), where he started a student magazine and officially became known as a poet. Upon his return to Boston, he had his first showing in 1904 at Fred Holland Day’s studio. Day was a photographer, publisher and one of Gibran’s earliest mentors.
Thus began an illustrious career as the third best-selling poet of all time, behind Shakespeare and Lao-Tzu.
The Prophet is how most became familiar with Kahlil Gibran, the book of poetry and prose, so romantic yet logical. The wisdom he extols, explaining the nature of love versus the nature of an egotistical longing to own another’s very being, is eloquently put in the following passage:
“Let there be spaces in your togetherness, and let the winds of the heavens dance between you. Love one another but make not a bond of love: Let it rather be a moving sea between the shores of your souls. Fill each other’s cup but drink not from one cup. Give one another of your bread but eat not from the same loaf. Sing and dance together and be joyous, but let each one of you be alone, even as the strings of a lute are alone though they quiver with the same music. Give your hearts, but not into each other’s keeping. For only the hand of Life can contain your hearts. And stand together, yet not too near together: For the pillars of the temple stand apart, And the oak tree and the cypress grow not in each other’s shadow.”
Gibran teaches us much about the nature of relationships, whether it be between two people or large groups, cultures as well as religions.
No doubt the knowledge of his own people’s bloody and destructive history created this philosophy of unity and a strong belief that we are all one and connected. As a child, he observed as his parents welcomed people of various religions into their home. His parents had witnessed the alternative to such inclusion, which led to a horrific massacre stemming from religious intolerance in 1860.
Kahlil Gibran offers up a dogma-free look at spirituality, a non-judgmental, non-moralistic approach to accepting one another and each of our individual practices toward insight and spirituality. Gibran’s view is shared by many great minds, William Blake, Walt Whitman and Ralph Waldo Emerson. They all valued individuality and freedom and rejected ideas of shackling the soul of a person through dogmatic, man-made tenets. Nature was God to these great thinkers.
Here in Woodford County, in our sweet, small town of Versailles, there are many structures built as places for us to worship, the First Christian Church, Versailles Baptist Church, Versailles Presbyterian Church, Versailles United Methodist Church, St. John’s Episcopal Church (the church of my youth and the one that will always hold my heart and probably my ashes one day), St. Leo Catholic Church (where I went to kindergarten, first and second grade), Crosspointe Church, First Baptist Church, Versailles Church of Christ, Versailles Simpson UMC, Church of Christ, St. Andrews Anglican Church, St Paul African Methodist Episcopal, Versailles-Huntertown Church, Harmony Missionary Baptist Church, Journey Church, Faith Baptist Church, Southside Christian Church, Calvary Apostolic Church, New Hope Baptist Church and those are just the ones I know about.
We need community, we need places to pray, even if that place is a special tree or a room in our home with candles, a pillow and a makeshift alter to Buddha, Shiva, or a rock that says, “Believe in Miracles.” We can do it any way we want. One thing I do know to be true is what Kahlil Gibran wrote in The Prophet, “I love you when you bow in your mosque, kneel in your temple, pray in your church. For you and I are sons of one religion, and it is the spirit.”