Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Khalil Gibran and the poetry that Is prayer...

...reminds us that art is also life.

In Khalil Gibran's The Prophet, I like especially that the singers and the dancers and the flute players come to town and belong because they, too, produce with the effort of farmers and fishers:
And a merchant said, Speak to us of Buying and Selling.

And he answered and said:

To you the earth yields her fruit, and you shall not want if you but know how to fill your hands.

It is in exchanging the gifts of the earth that you will find abundance and be satisfied.

Yet unless the exchange be in love and in kindly justice, it will but lead some to greed and others to hunger.

When in the marketplace you toilers of the sea and fields and vineyards meet the weavers and the potters and the gatherers of spices,--

Invoke then the master spirit of the earth, to come into your midst and sanctify the scales and the reckoning that weighs value against value.

And suffer not the barren-handed to take part in your transactions, who would sell their words for your labor.

To such men say,

"Come with us to the field, or go with our brothers to the sea and cast your net;

For the land and the sea shall be bountiful to you even as to us."

And there shall come the singers and the dancers and the flute players,--buy of their gifts also.

For they too are gatherers of fruit and frankincense, and that which they bring, though fashioned of dreams, is raiment and food for your soul.

And before you leave the marketplace, see that no one has gone his way with empty hands.

For the master spirit of the earth shall not sleep peacefully upon the wind till the least of you are satisfied.

I read this at the right moment and every word rings like a bell tone in my ear. And, maybe a little bit, in the memory of my right hand, I can feel the weight of my favorite hammer.

My feelings at those times, I imagine, are like the openness and waiting that comes to people who believe more strongly and speak in rhythms and in chants to the fountainhead of their belief. Of course, prayerfulness and mindfulness do not automatically transform believers into justice activists; sometimes, and instead, into something that seems a good bit more diabolical.

But there is a lot to be gained in reminding oneself, privately or in community, of the gifts of the world and the joy in connection and the harmony in creative and productive effort. Gibran shares this with us over and over.

"And a woman spoke, saying, Tell us of Pain." This the Prophet proceeds to do, ending with this observation:

"And the cup he brings, though it burn your lips, has been fashioned with the clay which the Potter has moistened with His own sacred tears."

The potter is an artisan, of course, and a reminder of the time when there was hardly any distance between art and craft or art and prayer. Gibran does not describe the sacred, but the mundane, and sees no distance between producers of the tangible and artists weaving dreams into "raiment and food for your soul."

1 comment:

  1. Jeff- this comment comes to you from out of your past, from out of the blue. You undoubtedly have no memory of me - a chubby, dark-haired girl who sat next to you in Mrs. Goldisch's class at O'Keeffe. Tonight in Manhattan's icy rain and fog, I was googling people from as far back as I could remember (what 62 year olds won't do to keep their mind intact!) and conjured up images of "canning" for your dad's campaign in 1961. I started wondering what happened to him, googled his name - and that brought me to your blog. I thought you might want to know how deeply moved I was by your tribute to him, how much I appreciated being reminded of his amazing career and personae - and that somebody out there still remembers and appreciates all that he did. Felice ("Fifi" in 1961) Kaufmann