Kahlil Gibran (1883-1931) the Lebanese poet, whose birth anniversary we mark on 6 January, in many ways represents the deeper spirit of Lebanon though he lived most of his life outside the country: in Paris as an art student and in the USA where he started to write directly in English. His best known book The Prophet was written directly in English.
Life without love is like a tree without blossom and fruit. And love without beauty is like flowers without scent and fruits without seed... For Love is the only flower that grows and blossoms without the aid of seasons...Love is a rose, its hear opens at dawn."
In "My Birthday", written in Paris on the 6th of January 1908 Gibran wrote "Thus have I walked round the sun twenty and five times. And I know not how many times the moon has encircled me. Yet I have not unveiled the secrets of life, neither have I known the hidden things of darkness... Much have I loved in these five and twenty years. And much that I have loved is hateful to people, and much that I have hated is by them admired... I have loved freedom, and my love has grown with the growth of my knowledge of the bondage of people to falsehood and deceit... Love is the only freedom in the world because it so elevates the spirit that the laws of humanity and the phenomena of nature do not alter its course."
In a vision that was correct, he added in the 1908 birthday essay "And today, today I stand in remembrance as a tired wayfarer who stands mid-way on the ascending road." He died in 1931 at the age of 48. (1)
For Gibran, Love and Beauty are the foundations of existence. As he wrote in an essay which gave the title to the book "A Tear and a Smile" Then my heart drew near to wisdom, the daughter of Love and Beauty, saying 'Give me wisdom that I may carry it to humankind'. She answered 'Say that happiness begins in the holy of holies of the spirit and comes not from without.
A Tear and a Smile sums up well Gibran's attitude toward life which is always made up of contrasts: light and dark, knowledge and doubt.
How beautiful is life, beloved.
In "The Hymn of Man", nearly a credo of his views, he stresses the 'both/and' of contrasts:
I have hearkened to the teachings of Confucius and listened to the wisdom of Brahma, and sat beside the Buddha beneath the tree of knowledge. Behold me now contending with ignorance and unbelieving.
I have borne the harshness of insatiable conquerors, and felt the oppression of tyrants and the bondage of the powerful. Yet I am strong to do the battle with the days.
(1) Quotations are from Kahlil Gibran A Tear and A Smile. Translated from the Arabic by H.M. Nahmad (London: William Heinemann, 1930)
Painting: Age of women by Khalil Gibran
Rene Wadlow, President, Association of World Citizens