Tag Archives: the prophet

Quote of the Day

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In honour of Valentine’s Day, I present to you some literary gems about that mysterious, all-encompassing, ever-absorbing, selflessly selfish and painfully blissful notion we in English call  Image result for love sculpture.

 

“The most painful thing is losing yourself in the process of loving someone too much, and forgetting that you are special too.”
Ernest Hemingway, Men Without Women

“If all else perished, and he remained, I should still continue to be; and if all else remained, and he were annihilated, the universe would turn to a mighty stranger.”
Emily Brontë, Wuthering Heights   

“Have enough courage to trust love one more time and always one more time.”
Maya Angelou

“Love is an irresistible desire to be irresistibly desired.”
Robert Frost

And finally, from the master of the written word himself:

“Let there be spaces in your togetherness, And let the winds of the heavens dance between you. Love one another but make not a bond of love: Let it rather be a moving sea between the shores of your souls…For only the hand of Life can contain your hearts. And stand together, yet not too near together: For the pillars of the temple stand apart, And the oak tree and the cypress grow not in each other’s shadow.”
Kahlil Gibran, The Prophet

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Quote of the Day

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I mentioned the author Robert Fulghum in a post the other day, and would be remiss if I didn’t include his most famous quote as part of this series.

All I Really Need To Know I Learned in Kindergarten was first published in 1986 to great commercial success, but not nearly as much critical praise. Apparently some critics called it “trite” and “saccharine,” which is just a fancy way of saying way, way over-the-top mushy.

Whatever the case, I enjoyed reading this book many moons ago, and I don’t think Fulghum ever pretended to make this a philosophical treatise like Kahlil Gibran’s The Prophet. I think his point – at least in this book – is that as we grow older we tend to complicate the simple and forget that the most important lessons are the most basic ones we learn as children. Period. End of story.

On that note, I present Mr. Fulghum’s most famous quote from a literary career that has seen him sell 16 million copies of his books in 27 languages.


Share everything.

Play fair.

Don’t hit people.

Put things back where you found them.

Clean up your own mess.

Don’t take things that aren’t yours.

Say you’re sorry when you hurt somebody.

Wash your hands before you eat.

Flush.

Warm cookies and cold milk are good for you.

Live a balanced life – learn some and think some
and draw and paint and sing and dance and play
and work every day some.

Take a nap every afternoon.

When you go out into the world, watch out for traffic,
hold hands, and stick together.

Be aware of wonder.
Remember the little seed in the styrofoam cup:
The roots go down and the plant goes up and nobody
really knows how or why, but we are all like that.

Goldfish and hamsters and white mice and even
the little seed in the Styrofoam cup – they all die.
So do we.

And then remember the Dick-and-Jane books
and the first word you learned – the biggest
word of all – LOOK.

Everything you need to know is in there somewhere.
The Golden Rule and love and basic sanitation.
Ecology and politics and equality and sane living.

Take any of those items and extrapolate it into
sophisticated adult terms and apply it to your
family life or your work or your government or
your world and it holds true and clear and firm.
Think what a better world it would be if
all – the whole world – had cookies and milk about
three o’clock every afternoon and then lay down with
our blankies for a nap. Or if all governments
had a basic policy to always put things back where
they found them and to clean up their own mess.

And it is still true, no matter how old you
are – when you go out into the world, it is best
to hold hands and stick together.

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Multiple Choice (novel)

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I’ve read books where I had to keep a dictionary close at hand (The Name of the Rose) or a notebook to jot down lyrical prose (The Prophet, The English Patient), but with Alejandro Zambra‘s Multiple Choice, you do actually need a pencil and eraser to get through this:

(A) Novel
(B) Nonfiction
(C) Poetry
(D) All of the above
(E) None of the above

 

I’m going to go with (F) Gimmicky. Now, I should point out that “gimmicky” does not necessarily mean bad, boring or trite. On the contrary, I think of the Choose Your Own Adventure series and how – gimmicky though they are in their format – each book is actually fresh, vibrant and engaging. (Someone actually referred to Multiple Choice as an “existential Choose-Your-Own-Adventure novel,” which I could not find more egregiously misleading.)

Even if you enjoy taking tests, do you really want to be going back and forth constantly between the answer index in the back of the book and the page you’re reading? Doubly so while you’re taking the subway to work in the morning or getting sleepy at night and lying in bed?

Perhaps it’s more pertinent to ask where any semblance of tension is throughout the prose-poetry novella (option (G)?). Or the lack of any empathy evoked by a wholly absent protagonist.

In short, a book should not be judged on its “newness” alone, but also by its literary merits, even if it’s simply because it’s a page-turner. For example, through their respective Jack Reacher and Robert Langdon series, Lee Child and Dan Brown manage to capture our imagination, as puerile (or gimmicky) as the writing may seem at times.

While I’m always happy to have formed an independent opinion after reading a book for myself, I can safely say that if you’ve already got another book on your shelf waiting to be read, you can skip passing Go on this one and not collect the $3 I received for reselling Multiple Choice to a used bookstore last week.

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Quote of the Day

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From one of my favourite books, this is Kahlil Gibran writing on love and marriage in his opus, The Prophet.

“Give your hearts, but not into each other’s keeping. For only the hand of Life can contain your hearts. And stand together, yet not too near together: For the pillars of the temple stand apart, And the oak tree and the cypress grow not in each other’s shadow.”

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What Will You Regret When You’re Old?

A close friend of mind lost a family member yesterday. As is often the case with death, especially when it’s unexpected, it gives one pause to reflect on life. In today’s society, we’re constantly reminded to “have no regrets” and “live life to the fullest” at every turn, it seems. Thing is, we’re human. To have regrets and feel disappointment about past failures or missed opportunities is completely natural; not having these feelings would make you alien.

While it would be nice to say “I’ll have no regrets when I’m old, baby!” the truth is probably a little closer to “I hope I have no regrets when I’m older.” In one of those ubiquitous lists you see pop up from time to time, I just happened to have one sent to me this morning entitled “Those Top 37 Things You’ll Regret When You’re Old.” It may sound shallow considering the scope of profound insights on the list, but No. 21 (Neglecting your teeth) hit me hard because I’ve seen too many people suffer from problems with their teeth when they get older, and even in a country with “universal health care,” dental work is not included. As someone who once had a nerve explode in his tooth and ended up in the ER, I can assure you it was a poignant reminder to be grateful for healthy teeth.

Personally — and in step with the theme of this blog — if I had to add a No. 38 to that list it would be “Read that one book you’ve always wanted to read/been told you have to read.” For some, that might be a Herculean effort like the Old Testament and the New Testament. Maybe it’s a classic such as War and Peace or Wuthering Heights. Perhaps it’s something lighter: Watership Down or Charlotte’s Web. For me, No. 38 would definitely be Kahlil Gibran’s 1923 literary triumph extraordinaire, The Prophet.

On this day, a somber Sunday when the weather is begging me to stay inside, I’ll take comfort in the things I have accomplished on that list and be grateful, more than anything else, that I have my health. And my teeth.

 

 

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Why Read the Same Book Twice?

Is reading a book for a second time akin to dating an ex- again? Like, what’s the point? You’ve been down that path, you know the score, it ain’t your first rodeo with it/him/her, so why bother?

As per the first question, no, it’s not like dating an ex- for the second time. To begin, a second run through a book lacks the drama of the latter (and the petty, petty fights). With respect to the other self-directed question, the point is in the details; reading a book for a second time is the difference between gazing at the stars with the naked eye and with a telescope. With an awesome piece of Galilean machinery, the stars really start to glitter.

My book club is nearing its 7th anniversary and over that time we’ve been fortunate to read some very good literature, both fiction and non-fiction alike. This month, however, one member decided to shake things up a bit (variety is the literary spice of life?). Instead of choosing a new title as we usually do, she asked everybody to pick one book we’ve already done and either go back and reread it (or read it for the first time if you happened to miss that month). Brilliant, says I.

That’s how I ended up choosing Kent Haruf’s Plainsong again this month. I purposefully chose this book because it’s not only a deeply soulful, thought-provoking read, but it’s sloooooooooooooow. My life is too hectic right now. I’m in the middle of my busy season for work and practically coming off the rails when not fighting deadlines 24/7. I started Plainsong once again yesterday and know that I have made the right decision. Haruf’s lyricism is so simple it can’t help but make you smile, especially when you consider the metaphor that I’ve cluttered and complicated my own life with all this bloody work. And wouldn’t you know it? I’m actually enjoying the book more this time through than I did the first time around.

However, I should point out that the experience is not always the same when you have a second kick at the can with books. For example, although The Wind-up Bird Chronicle is one of my favourite books and hugely impactful on my own writing, I didn’t enjoy it nearly as much the second time. Alternatively, The English Patient became more poetic the second time (and even better the third), Richler’s Barney’s Version  was even more piss-your-pants funnier the second time around, and my personal bible, Gibran’s The Prophet, has only become more poignant over the years with each subsequent read (I lost count at 10).

The thing is, you’ll never know how good a book can be a second time until you’ve tried it. Unfortunately, in this day and age of bucket lists, an addiction to newness, and the pressure to stay up on what’s hip and relevant, many of us don’t take the time to go back to the proverbial well and recall fond memories of stories that helped shaped us on our life journey. You should try it. I’m pretty sure you won’t regret the trip down memory lane in this epoch of Go! Go! Go!

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