February 24, 2018
Gibran's Two-World MessageOn this day in 1883 the painter-writer-mystic Kahlil Gibran was born in Lebanon. His best-known work, The Prophet, was first published in 1923; it remains at or near the top of the all-time best-seller lists in both the Arab world and the West, apparently providing the comfort and inspiration intended: "The whole Prophet is saying one thing," he summarized, "'you are far greater than you know -- and all is well.'" The book was certainly required owning in the Hippie years, whether for its aphoristic style, or back-pocket size, or specific advice:
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. . . .
His unrealized dream was to build a symbol of such reconciliation in Beirut, a structure with both a dome and a minaret. Although there are other contenders, some say that it was Gibran and not one of JFK's speechwriters who gave the West one of its most famous parallel structures. This is in the culminating sentence of the excerpt below from "The New Frontier," one of Gibran's more political writings. What comes before the line, wrenched into the context of what has come recently, can send a jihad chill that is totally opposite to Gibran's dream:
There are today in the Middle East, two men: one of the past and one of the future. Which one are you? Come close; let me look at you and let me be assured by your appearance and conduct if you are one of those coming into the light or going into the darkness. Come and tell me who and what you are. Are you a politician asking what your country can do for you or a zealous one asking what you can do for your country?. . .
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