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Visions Of The Prophet
by Kahlil Gibran


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Excerpt

The Day I Was Born

It was on this very day, twenty-five years ago, that my mother brought me into the world. It was on this very day that silence placed me in the hands of this existence racked with cries and conflict.
Twenty-five times have I orbited the sun, and I know not how many times the moon has gravitated around me. But I have not yet understood the secrets of the light nor penetrated the mysteries of darkness.
Twenty-five times have I gravitated with the moon and the sun, and with the stars, around the supreme Law of the universe. And now my soul murmurs the names of this Law, just as caves echo the waves of the sea; and yet its existence is unknown to them and, without understanding the sea, they are soothed by the usic of its high and low tides.
Twenty-five years ago the hand of time entered my name in the book of this strange and terrific world. And now, like a siblylline word, I symbolize sometimes nothingness and sometimes a host of things.
On this very day, every year, my soul is overwhelmed with thoughts, memories and contemplation. They halt, before my eyes, the procession of days past and show me the spirits of nights gone by; then they disperse them---just as the sun dissolves the fleecy clouds in the sky over the blue horizon---until they vanish into the recesses of my room, just as the songs of the streams die away in the deep and distant valleys.
Each year, on this same day, the spirits that shaped my soul come from the four corners of the world to visit me. They gather round me, intoning the laments of this commemoration; then they withdraw with muffled steps and disappear beyond the invisible world---like flocks of birds which alight in some abandoned courtyard and, after finding no seeds to peck at, flutter about for a few moments, then fly far away to hover in the sky elsewhere.
On this day I see before me the meaning of my past life, as though that life were a little mirror into which I might gaze at length, seeing only the wan faces of the years like the faces of the dead, and the lined features of hopes, dreams and wishes, like the wrinkles of the aged. Then I close my eyes, look into this mirror once more, and see only my own face. I examine it, and I see only sadness; then I question that sadness and find it silent; if it could speak it would be more sublime than the state of blessedness.
During these twenty-five years I have felt so much love. Often I have loved what people hate and detested what they enjoy. I continue today to love what I loved in my youth, and I shall love it until my life's end. Love is all I can possess and no one can deprive me of it.
Many times have I been in love with death; I have invoked it with gentle epithets and adorned it with verses of praises, not only in secret but in the light of day. Although I have not renounced my allegiance to death, I have come to love life. For to me death and life resemble each other in beauty and in pleasure; they unite to nourish my ardor and my nostaligia, while they share between them my passion and my love.
I have loved liberty, and this love grew as I extended my knowledge of the submission of the people to iniquity and ignominy; my love of liberty grew in scope as I learned to understand people's adoration of the hideous idols carved by remote generations, set up in perpetual ignorance and polished by the lips of slaves. And yet I loved these slaves with all my love of liberty and I pitied them, for they are blind men who embrace the jaws of wild beasts without seeing them, swallow the venon of vipers without feeling it and dig their own graves with their fingernails without knowing it.
It is liberty that I have loved most, for I found it as though I were a young girl who had languished so long in isolation that she had become a transparent shadow among the dwellings, stopping at street corners and calling out to passes-by who neither turned round nor heeded her.
During those twenty-five years I have, like everyone else, loved happiness; and as each dawn broke, like everyone else, I would go in search of it. But I never found it along their pathways; I found no sign of it even around their palaces, and even less in any echoes emanating from their temples. When I found myself alone in my search for it, I heard my soul whisper these words into my ear: 'Happiness is a vine that sakes root and grows within the heart, never outside it.' Then, when I opened the lock-gates of my heart in order to see happiness, I found its mirror, its bed and its clothes, but not happiness itself.
I have loved humanity, I have loved it so much. For me, there three kinds of men: he who curses life, he who blesses it and he who contemplates it. I love the first for his wretchedness, the second for his indulgence and the third for his perception.
And so those twenty-five years have gone by, and my days and nights have detached themselves from my life one after the other, like dead leaves whirling in the autumn winds.
Today I pause for a moment for recollection, like that exhausted traveler who halts half-way up the mountain. I look in all directions but can find no trace of my past to which I could point in the light of day and say: 'This is mine.' And I cannot find the harvest of my seasons, apart from the white pages streaked with black ink and strange and random drawings whose lines and colors blend both contrast and harmony. In these writing and sketches I have set my feelings, my thoughts and my dreams, just like the peasant who sows his seeds deep in the earth. After he has finished his work he returns home in the evening, waiting and hoping for the harvest season. But as for me, I have sown the seeds of my heart without expectation of hope.
And now, having reached this stage of my life I see, through a mist of painful sighs, the past rise up, and before me the future appears behind the veil of the past.
Standing in front of my window, I watch existence through the glass and I see people's faces. And I hear their voices rising into space. I observe the rhythm of thier steps. I feel the light touch of their spirits and the tides of their desires and the beating of their hearts.
I watch, and I see children playing, running and throwing handfuls of earth at each other, laughing and souting. I see young men walking with heads held high as though reading the poem of youth at the edges of clouds lines with sunbeams. I see young girl moving like branches swaying in the wind, smiling like flower as they look at the young men, their eyes thrilling with desire. I see old men walking with cautious steps, their heads bowed with age; gripping their walking-sticks and with their eyes fixed on the ground, as though searching for the pearls they had lost in the time of their youth.
Standing at my window I contemplate these images, and these ghots who express only noise through their footsteps along the streets and alleyways of the city. Then I look beyond the city, and I see nature and all it embodies of terrible beauty. And I admire the eloquence of silence, the majesty of the mountains, the humility of the valleys, the vigor of the trees, the waving grasses, the scents of the flowers, the singing of the streams and the rejoicing of the birds.
Then I look beyond nature and I see the sea with all its mysteries hidden in its depths, the ebb and flow of tis foaming waves and the great curling shapes rising and falling.
And much further away i see the infinite firmament with its floating plants, its gleaming and wandering stars, its suns and satellites, its fixed bodies and all that stands between them, forces of propulsion and attraction that move closer and then further apart, that comes to life, then changes form---all directed by a law that knowns no limit in either time or space.
As I watch through the window I meditate on all these things until I finally forget my twenty-five years, the generations that proceded them and the centuries to come. My existence, with all that I have revealed and hidden concerning it, appears to me like an atom in the sigh of a small child, a moment that trembles in a void stretching from Creation to Eternity.
Yet I feel the existence of this atom, of this soul, of this being that I name 'myself'. I feel its domain and I hear its turmoil. Now it unfolds its wings in the air and stretches its hands in all directions; then it bows down and quivers on this day which, twenty-five years ago, bore witness to its existence. Then a voice of thunder emerges from the sacred depths of its being, crying:
'Peace be with you, O Life. Peace be with you, O Awakening. Peace be with you, O visionary Eye.
Peace be with you, O Day whos brightness floods the darkness of the earth.....
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