“….weather the uncertainties of love….”

I feel compelled to share a write up by Maria Popova from her Brainpickings publication, on one of my most favorite artists, Gibran, about his understanding of love…

The following gives me a window into how the depth of unfettered love can be allowed to unfold as we learn to love, not just a person but all parts of creation.

“Kahlil Gibran on the Courage to Weather the Uncertainties of Love

“Love is the quality of attention we pay to things,” poet J.D. McClatchy wrote in his beautiful meditation on the contrast and complementarity of love and desire. And what we choose to attend to — our fear or our faith, our woundedness or our devotion to healing — determines the quality of our love. How we navigate our oscillation between these inescapable polarities is governed by the degree of courage, openness, and vulnerability with which we are willing to show up for and to our own hearts. “The alternations between love and its denial,” philosopher Martha Nussbaum observed in contemplating the difficulty of knowing ourselves, “constitute the most essential and ubiquitous structural feature of the human heart.”

That is what the great Lebanese-American poet, painter, and philosopher Kahlil Gibran(January 6, 1883–April 10, 1931) explores in one of the most stirring passages from The Prophet (public library) — the 1923 classic that also gave us what may be the finest advice ever offered on the balance of intimacy and independence in healthy relationships.

Kahlil Gibran, self-portrait

Speaking to the paradoxical human impulse to cower before the largeness of love — to run from its vulnerable-making uncertainties and necessary frustrations at the cost of its deepest rewards — Gibran offers an incantation of courage:

When love beckons to you, follow him,
Though his ways are hard and steep.
And when his wings enfold you yield to him,
Though the sword hidden among his pinions may wound you.
And when he speaks to you believe in him,
Though his voice may shatter your dreams as the north wind lays waste the garden.

For even as love crowns you so shall he crucify you.
Even as he is for your growth so is he for your pruning.
Even as he ascends to your height and caresses your tenderest branches that quiver in the sun,
So shall he descend to your roots and shake them in their clinging to the earth.
Like sheaves of corn he gathers you unto himself.
He threshes you to make you naked.
He sifts you to free you from your husks.
He grinds you to whiteness.
He kneads you until you are pliant;
And then he assigns you to his sacred fire, that you may become sacred bread for God’s sacred feast.

All these things shall love do unto you that you may know the secrets of your heart, and in that knowledge become a fragment of Life’s heart.

But if in your fear you would seek only love’s peace and love’s pleasure,
Then it is better for you that you cover your nakedness and pass out of love’s threshing-floor,
Into the seasonless world where you shall laugh, but not all of your laughter, and weep, but not all of your tears.
Love gives naught but itself and takes naught but from itself.
Love possesses not nor would it be possessed;
For love is sufficient unto love.

Illustration from An ABZ of Love, Kurt Vonnegut’s favorite vintage Danish guide to sexuality

In a sentiment John Steinbeck would come to echo a generation later in his beautiful letter of advice on love to his teenage son, Gibran adds:

Think not you can direct the course of love, for love, if it finds you worthy, directs your course.
Love has no other desire but to fulfill itself.
But if you love and must needs have desires, let these be your desires:
To melt and be like a running brook that sings its melody to the night.
To know the pain of too much tenderness.
To be wounded by your own understanding of love;
And to bleed willingly and joyfully.
To wake at dawn with a winged heart and give thanks for another day of loving;
To rest at the noon hour and meditate love’s ecstasy;
To return home at eventide with gratitude;
And then to sleep with a prayer for the beloved in your heart and a song of praise upon your lips.

The Prophet remains a timeless trove of wisdom and a mighty clarifying force for the turbidity of the heart. Complement it with Gibran on why we make art and his stunning love letters, then revisit Adrienne Rich on how honorable relationships refine our truths, Erich Fromm on the art of loving and what is keeping us from mastering it, Leo Tolstoy on love and its paradoxical demands, and this wondrous illustrated meditation on the many meanings and manifestations of love.”

The Baobab Tree

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You may not tower
But stand you do
Strong and grounded
With reassuring girth
Your vertical ripples
And segmental trunking
Branch up symmetrically
Dispersed across the plains
You lend life to many
Hosting beehives
Nesting Superb starlings
With dried out river beds
Elephants gnaw deep into your trunk
Sucking your rich sap
Parasitic plant life
Twine around and into your branches
No harm done
As your longevity is into the hundreds
Oh mighty tree
Humble and kind
In this arid bush land
You stand giant-like
Sharing all you are
Giving house and nutrients
Denying not even the termites
In awe of your qualities
Humbled by your lessons
You teach it is possible
To live with all who share your space

Bird of Paradise

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Distinctly present

With colors unadulterated

Definition unquestionable

With geometrical challenge

What creative precision

With beauty spectacular

As adorned with grand stature

Claiming humbled respect

Bird of Paradise

You inspire a freedom

Exotic and rich

Yet sprout amongst us

Feeding from shared sun and waters

What wise lesson you teach

That wherever you are

With whatever colors and form

We too can unfold

Majestic and magical

Tapestry

Moment by moment

The scroll lengthens

The weave thickens

History in the making 

Each day an event

When comes the pivotal point

No one ever knows

Arrivals departures 

The stream goes on

Yet the accumulative effect

Undeniably shapes

The future to come

No reality ever

Quite as the dreamer intended 

So dive below the turmoil

Surface above the mundane 

And soar with the stars

To a place so sublime

Where never touched by the grime 

Unavoidably part of this here time

She II

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Embodiment of woman
Quietly she does not come.
Announced by her presence
As delivered by Mother Nature.
Curvaceously bold
Cool, calm the exterior,
Awaiting the unleashing
Of her beholden fire.
Lips do not to part
As her words never matter.
She speaks with a rhythm
Even nature can only but listen.
Gently she commands
Entwining her partner,
Inseparable, indistinguishable
One made for the other.
Allowing the forum
Her energy comes forth.
Her softness, her pains
Her fury, her surrender.
Each woman her own.
Yet mirror you do
That ‘she’ spirit of ours,
Dear sister of mine.

She

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Not all will see her
Lifetime of scars
Colors adorn her
Painting pictures hollow

Performing her rituals
Loads carried high
She integrates into the fabric
The thick societal weave

Her face speaks silence
Her heart cries wild
Breath she stifles
Suffocating alive

Ahead lay dry arid lands
Dusted with desolation
Yet seeds of passion fire love
Await the raining days

This spirit of woman
Has never come and gone
Without a mark
Upon at least one soul

Sisters of mothers never known
Bloom in past and future
Some blazing trails
Some leave treasures buried

So Sing and dance
Like nightingale and lark
Or roam and glide
As swans of the lake

Embrace the gifts
Of all that make the ‘her’
Rise to your part
As designed by nature’s Mother