GIBRAN’S VALUES

Gibran believed in the sacrosanct value of cooperation, and urged us to “seek the counsel of one another, for therein lies the way out of error and futile repentance. For when we turn to one another for counsel, we reduce the number of our enemies.” Here we find a commitment to negotiation, consultation, inclusion, and dialogue. To Gibran, universal harmony can be enhanced through seeking common grounds, through tolerance. He stated:

You are my brother and I love you.

I love you when you prostrate yourself in your mosque, and kneel in your church, and pray in your synagogue.

Drawing from the thoughts of Ibn al-Arabi, Ibn al-Farid, al-Ghazzali and others in Arabic literature, Gibran thought that Unity of Being was possible. He adored nature, first inspired by the extraordinary beauty of the countryside of his birth, Bsharri, and a culture that synthesised the great legends of Adonis and Astarte, then his Romantic appreciation of life and the Arts. According to the late Suheil Bushrui:

“[Gibran] saw the body of the world as an outward manifestation of the divine essence, not as an object to be manipulated, rearranged and remade according to material desires and whims.”

A man of the East, Gibran found a home in the West where he brought much needed spirituality, yet never letting go of his roots. According to Henri Zoghaib

[I]f Lebanon did not appear in [Gibran’s] English pen, it appeared in his brush.

We notice in many of his paintings a background of mountains and valleys that are typically reminiscent of the Qadisha Valley, an incredibly beautiful site that lent many memories to his childhood.

The hybridism that defines modernity is seen in his reconciliation of the two realms – East and West, with a promise to stretch to the North and South, urging us to accommodate and allow ourselves to be accommodated. We are all, to Gibran, one people.

While encouraging commerce, Gibran did so without supporting acrimony and exploitation. To him, business without charity was futile. He stated:

And when you leave the market place, 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 needs of the last of you are satisfied.

Gibran thus urged giving and sharing, for when we help others, we stabilise the world, and therefore help ourselves. It is in this spirit that he reconciled contraries, be they in gender, creed, culture, race, or ideas. To Gibran, the world exists in complements – everything needs everything else. He was a true universalist, and he lived universalism.

Gibran had a deep veneration for women, whom he portrayed as divine in his paintings, and believed were as entitled as men to pursue happiness. After his mother, he depended on his sister who became a seamstress and supported them both. Gibran detested the oppression of women under whatever guises, be these religious, cultural, or political. Then there were other women, among them Mary Haskell and May Ziadeh. In a 1928 letter to Ziadeh, he expressed profound indebtedness to women for his existence, writing:

I am indebted for all that I call “I” to women, ever since I was an infant. Women opened the windows of my eyes and the doors of my spirit. Had it not been for the woman-mother, the woman-sister, and the woman-friend, I would have been sleeping among those who seek the tranquillity of the world with their snoring.

Almitra is there for us to see in The Prophet. Women are, to Gibran, the gateway into life, and without them, there is no life.

We cannot be surprised at all, after all the central position of Almitra is there for us to see in The Prophet. Women are, to Gibran, the gateway into life, and without them, there is no life.

Gibran adored children, and believed they should not be fettered in any way. Rather, he believed that children should have doors opened for them to walk into the world that is theirs. In The Prophet, he wrote:

The Prophet, he wrote:

Your children are not your children.

They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself.

They come through you but not from you,

And though they are with you yet they belong not to you.

What better way to give children freedom than giving them books? What better opportunity can any society offer its children than literacy and unhindered access to books, to ideas, to peace, to love?

In spite of his incredible love for his country of birth, Lebanon, so much love that he stated

“If Lebanon had not been my country, I would have adopted Lebanon for my country”, Gibran never shied away from the truth. In fact, he was blunt with it. Gibran lamented, to exhort his nation to greatness:

What is it that you seek, my countrymen? What ask you from Life, who does not any longer count you among her children? I hate you, my countrymen, because you hate glory and greatness. I despise you because you despise yourselves.

In such social realistic ethos, Gibran proffers into our hands the spirit of courage, sincerity, and an unequivocal insistence on honour. We adopt from him a nationalism that is awake to its limitations, its internal deficiencies. Gibran invites us here to love our country, but never hesitate to point out her faults. One could swear he addresses Nigeria by these words. One could swear he addresses America by these words. One could swear he addresses the 21st century world. In fact, he does.