What a melancholy day. Memorial Day, May 26, 2013. Cloudy, dismal, and cold. I drove to the small town cemetery where my father is buried to offer up my thanks and leave a bit of beauty. On the way there NPR was broadcasting poets reading somber and heart wrenching poetry about love and loss. The way home was even sadder for the broadcast had moved on to memoirs of Vietnam veterans. The little town by the cemetery has become seedy, run down, and sad looking.
Home again I picked up my beat up copy of The Prophet that I scavenged from an antique mall. It's been reclining by my bed for weeks now. Finding it at the mall had stirred up memories of my friends and I passing it around in college and memorizing quotes that seemed so relevant during the Vietnam era. This particular copy was published later than the one I would have had (1977) and I had forgotten that it was originally published in 1923. Not remembering anything about it I was still thinking about college times when I opened the book to see this written inside the front cover, “Maxine, I want you to have this. Consider it my Christmas present to you. I hope you do take the time to read it. Sorry that I didn't know. Vicki.” Hmmm, who were or are Vicki and Maxine? What did Vicki need to know and didn't? Why did Maxine let this treasure get away from her and end up in a dusty dank pile of old books? I had to have it, and so it goes.
In some unnamed time and place a wandering prophet (I think I might be getting addicted to pilgrim stories too!) has been in a coastal town for twelve years while waiting for a ship to come and take him back to his home that he so misses. He wants to give his devoted followers something. Since he has no possessions he decides to spend time talking with them and requests each to ask an important question from the heart. The answers from the prophet are written like poetical philosophical essays. My favorite chapters and quotations at this time are as follows:
Giving - “There are those who give little of the much which they have and they give it for recognition and their hidden desire makes their gifts unwholesome.”
Teaching - “If he is indeed wise he does not bid you enter the house of his wisdom, but rather leads you to the threshold of your own mind.”
Death - “And what is it to cease breathing, but to free the breath from its restless tides, that it may rise and expand and seek God unencumbered?”
If you have this book and take it down periodically and peruse the chapters I am guessing different chapters will speak to you at different times. I'm sure when I was 19 the above were not the ones I quoted. More than likely it was Love, Joy and Sorrow, and perhaps Self-knowledge.