Ever had questions about life? – Who hasn’t!
We all have a multitude of questions as we ponder important decisions in life. I often find myself asking some and when I cannot satisfy my curiosity sufficiently, I delve into research or distraction. Distraction does work better though. But Google serves its purpose. Although, before “Googling” became a thing – people would turn to wisdom of old and scriptures for the most part.
While I was reading The Prophet many people mistook it for a religious book owing to the title on the cover. Perhaps the idea of covering a book with brown paper to prevent people from “judging a book by its cover”, can do wonders!
First published in 1923, The Prophet has been translated in over 50 languages.
The story begins with a man named Almustafa about to set sail and travel back to his homeland. Before he leaves behind the beloved city of Orphalese where he lived up to this point, the citizens gather to ask him questions. Upon arriving in this city twelve years before, the man was deemed a “Prophet of God” by Almitra (a seeress). He becomes an invaluable member of the society while living here, and people want to seek his wisdom regarding different matters before he leaves.
With each chapter, the Prophet explains a phenomenon he is questioned about – Usually by a person who is related somehow to this aspect. For instance, a mason asks the Prophet to speak about Houses.
Language and content stand out exceptionally in the book. If ever there was a guide on how to live fruitfully, this would be it. A guide to live life in a way that brings peace and pleasure.
When the Prophet is asked to speak about love, he says: “For even as love crowns you so shall he crucify you”. I was most drawn to the pages, which explore the contradictory nature of love. As much as love is something each human craves, the person we love also has the power to hurt us the most.
The Prophet explains that love tears you down and builds you up equally so that you may be able to decipher the contents of your own heart and open it up to become one with the heart of Life. That love is not pleasure and peace alone and directing the course of love is not in our hands – it is the other way around.
Of sorrow and joy the Prophet says: “…is not the lute that soothes your spirit the very wood that was hollowed with knives?” This metaphor explains that joy and sorrow must exist in tandem, and accompany each other.
When asked about self-knowledge, the reply includes the phrase: “Your hearts know in silence the secrets of the days and the nights”.
Almustafa speaks of Love in the beginning and eventually speaks about death to the people. They ask him about religion, law, passion, freedom, clothing, marriage, children, talking, buying and selling – and so much more. Each is explained in a prose that is rich in poetry and elegant language. Easily understandable, the words have a melody which is a delight, especially when read aloud.
The Prophet eventually leaves the people of Orphalese, as Almitra ponders his saying: “A little while, a moment of rest upon the wind, and another woman shall bear me.”