Category Archives: Khalil Ghibran

The Prophet Redux

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8/22/12 7:48am

I woke up late (at 6) and washed the dishes I’d left from last night. I had wanted to wake early and go to the Y, but I did not set my alarm.  After I washed the dishes I sat down and read Kahlil Gibran’s The Prophet while applying the heat pad to my ankle. Very nice except where I chose to sit the rising sun was shining directly in my eyes.

I have always loved The Prophet, ever since that day (well it was a late night) that the messenger (Oscar? Ben? Bill? I can’t remember his name) sat me down and explained why this was the life of all life, book of all books. I think he thought it was a secular bible.  There was another book that he was obsessed with, something new agey (this being 1981, it was an outlier) that he also liked, it might have been RamDass or something that stupid. In any case he spent an hour or two after midnight evangelizing this text as I drained a 40 of Ballantine Ale (or three). As I said “I’ll be right back, I need another,” he confessed to me that he was a heroin addict. I’m not so sure why it mattered that I knew that, but I definitely filed that bit of intelligence away (people not to be trusted any more) he became even more passionate about The Prophet.  We stayed in Washington Square until 3 or 4 in the morning talking about that book and the ideas that it provided.

I have very few clear memories of Ben after that day. I saw him once on Madison in the 20s and on 5th below 14th (Funny how early in their addiction addicts can be found in the Village). I last saw him in midtown, near triple-six-Fifth, the DC building. He was looking run down. I wonder if he survived. Most addicts from ‘81 died of AIDS.

I wonder why people have always wanted to talk about books with me? I was a simple drunken messenger back then. But still people wanted to talk books with me. I’d been pretty good at avoiding the Jehovah’s Witnesses and other religious fanatics who want to talk about “Their Book.” But when I was in early recovery in Harlem and in other unusual places people have always come up to me and wanted to discuss philosophical texts. I must have a bookish mein to myself.

I’ve always considered that night in Washington Square and the book by William James The Varieties of Religious Experience that an Addict at Gracie Square gave me in ‘86 odd. But somehow I felt like Siddhartha, someone with a huge destiny because people brought me books to read in unlikely places (these are not the only 2).

In my paper journal I wrote about The Prophet, but I don’t have time to retype that here now. Sad, really.  Previously I had loved “Marriage” because of the idea of separation and love: “For the pillars of the temple stand apart.” But now, these days, with teens, the passage “On Children” really moved me. I am comforted and tortured by the passage that says “For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow, which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.”

Thing 1 has proven herself to be a totally independent thinker, who suffers instruction unhappily.  However she does follow rules, like most older siblings, and has made her trajectory towards the future clear. Thing 2 -TACITURN youth- has little communication with us, though he seems to know that we are excluded from his future.  He suffers our interruptions unhappily, knowing this. Thing 3 has become prematurely knowing.  She is the tween sister of two teens and has started salting away their mistakes for her future use.  Clever, she is.

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Prophet Housing

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12/18/07 04:56:38 AM

So our new lives in our new apartment have started. I took Chandler to meet Aneka at 46th Street on the seven train. We were there so early Chandler has renegotiated for an extra 10 minutes of sleep today. I was a work by 7:30 and If I continue to do this I’ll have time to go to the gym in morning. Apparently Lennox and Mason’s drop off also went well. Linda and I went to Costco to buy a TV, which I think we’ve put off in the hopes that we can buy the kids more of what they want this “holiday” season. Funny thing about that ironic use of quotation marked holiday.

I found a copy of Khalil Ghibran’s The Prophet (that I had bought on telegraph avenue used) and in it was a bookmark. The page it marked was the Prophet’s response to the Mason. “’Ironic,’ thought I, it is addressed to my son.” But the opening line is “Then a [M]ason came forth and said speak to us of Houses” (34). So, since I spent the evening unpacking my seemingly endless supply of things and assembling them I was intrigued by the synchronicity of the bookmarking.1 This is the electronics (and modern) version of feathering my nest. We’ve got to get all of the twigs and grass just right so that the chicks and their parents will all fit comfortably. I imagine a bird’s nest of wires, surge protectors, USB cables and transformer power lines in which we comfortably cuddle together. (God, how I digress.)

The first few “stanzas” were pure anti-city, and I’ll include a bit here as an illustration: “Would the valleys your streets and the green paths your alleys… [and] In their fear your forefathers gathered you too near together” (35). These nods to the bucolic piss me off. Besides the fact that the human condition is social, and there would be no wilderness if we spread people out like that, even in 1922, I just want to dissent a bit further on this romanticization of the bucolic.

(Digression Alert) I remember one week when Scott and I lived on Maui. This was before we got food stamps, in deed it might be why I got food stamps. We had “no visible means of support” and we had alienated those off of whom we could beg. But there was a mango tree and an avocado tree that were in season near where we were camping. We could fill ourselves nicely on these huge trees for the cost of a climb. Guavas, I think were also ripe in a pasture a couple of miles away. Before seven days had passed I was crazy and hungry though my stomach never went empty. There is a reason that we are a social and agrarian species. The hunter gatherer thing is too much work. (I think it is also why we are omnivores, but that is another rant.)

Then the prophet gets to why I am writing this now:

Tell me have you [peace, remembrances and beauty] in your houses?

Or have you only comfort, and the lust for comfort, that stealthy thing that enters the house as a guest, and becomes a host, and then a master?

Ay, it becomes a tamer, and with hook and scourge makes puppets of your larger desires.

Though its hands are silken, its hear is of iron.

It lulls you to sleep only to stand by your bed and jeers at the dignity of the flesh.

It makes mock of your sound senses, and lays them in thistledown like fragile vessels.2

Verily the lust for comfort murders the the passion of the soul, and then walks grinning in the funeral.

But you, children o space, you restless in rest, you shall not be trapped nor tamed.

Your house shall be not an anchor but a mast. (36)

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