Sunday, February 17, 2008

Big Questions and a little Gibran

Yesterday I walked with Camus as a spiritual guide while today I walked with Khalil Gibran in his place.  Geographically I have spanned the very expanse or width of the Mediterranean Sea, or "Mare Nostrum" as the Romans called this beautiful sea.  In a definite sense Camus and Gibran occupy opposite poles as regards philosophy and spirituality - Gibran was a believer and a Christian while Camus was a nonbeliever and a hardened absurdist who proclaimed somewhat enigmatically: "I do not believe in God, but I'm not an atheist."  Yet I find both men's writings rewarding and uplifting.  Geographically they lie at opposite ends of the central sea of the world and intellectually and spiritually they also inhabit different world views.  Be that as it may, they are both wonderfully clear and gifted writers - Camus appealing to the philosopher in me who is adept at drawing logical conclusions and Gibran appeals to the Romantic and Mystic in me whose heart melts at this author's passionate insights into life.

Camus was born in Mondovi, Algeria in 1913, the same year as my own father.  Like myself he was born into a working class family - his father Lucien had perished at the Battle of the Marne in 1914.  Now pan across to the western side of the Mediterranean Sea and let your eye descend upon Lebanon, poor brutally bruised and long suffering Lebanon.  There, in a small town called Bsharri Khalil Gibran was born in 1883.  Gibran died in 1931, aged 48, in New York City, U.S.A. He is the third best-selling poet in history after Shakespeare and Lao TseCamus, as I have stated in the preceding post, won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1957.  Our two men are both literary greats - no mean achievement at all.

What has brought Gibran to my mind today is his beautiful quotation on friendship which I feel is equal to Camus' brilliant quotation on the same theme.  (See the last post on this blog for the quotation).  Gibran also lived to be just about the same age as Camus - Gibran died at 48 while Camus exited this  life at 46 years.  I treasure this particular quotation as it is the handwritten dedication inside a book my friend Mathew Staunton game me. The quotation comes from Gibran's best-known work is The Prophet, a book composed of 26 poetic essays. During the 1960s, The Prophet became especially popular with the American counterculture and New Age movements. The Prophet remains famous to this day, having been translated into more than 20 languages.  It recounts the answers a religious leader or prophet gives before he leaves a particular country.  Here a youth has asked the spiritual master what friendship means.  Here is how the prophet answers:

And let there be no purpose in friendship save the deepening of the spirit...And let the best be for your friend.  If he must know the ebb of your tide, let him know its flood also.  For what is your friend that you should seek him with hours to kill? Seek him always with hours to live.  For it is his to fill your need, but not your emptiness.

                                  (from Il Profeta e Il Giardino del Profeta, Khalil Gibran (Mondadori, 1993), 66

For once I had my digital camera with me. I sneaked up quietly and managed to get three wonderful pictures of our wonderful winter guests, the Brent Geese on Malahide strand today!

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