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Sand and Foam White Crow Books is an imprint of White Crow Productions Ltd PO Box 1013 Guildford GU1 9EJ Th is edition copyright 2009 © White Crow Books All rights reserved. Unauthorized reproduction, in any manner, is prohibited. Text design and eBook production by Essential Works ISBN 978-1-907355-07-3 eBook ISBN 978-1-907355-55-4 Audiobook ISBN 978-1-907355-36-3 Religion & Spirituality Distributed in the UK by Lightning Source Ltd. Chapter House Pitfield Kiln Farm Milton Keynes MK11 3LW Distributed in the USA by Lightning Source Inc. 246 Heil Quaker Boulevard LaVergne Tennessee 37086



a h li l gibr a n (1883–1931), bestselling author and spiritual guide, was a man in search of himself and his place in the world; he wrote from longing and created beauty. Gibran was a writer and painter, based in the USA, and his life was his material. An immigrant from Lebanon at the beginning of the twentieth century, he wrote with one eye on his homeland – and with a restless questioning spirit. As one of his teachers records, “he had an impetuous soul, a rebellious mind and an eye mocking everything it sees.” Kahlil was born into a Christian Maronite family in Bsharri, set in the mountainous regions of North Lebanon; and under control of the Ottoman empire. (He fought for Syrian nationalism all his life.) We hear of a solitary and thoughtful child, who delighted in his natural surroundings. Growing up in poverty, his only education was the visit of the priest, until troubled family circumstances led to upheaval and relocation to the USA – without his father. Here Gibran experienced loss. His sister, half-brother and mother died before he was twenty. He wrote: “Ever has it been, that love knows not its own depth until the hour of separation.” But here also he experienced patronage from a succession of motherfigures who were to help nurture his life as an artist and writer, introducing him to the Boston literary circles. Gibran would never fit in. He described himself as a “fragment”, and as one always wondering where he belonged in the world. “The human heart cries out for 5

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hope,” he wrote. “The human soul implores us for deliverance. But we do not heed their cries, for we neither hear nor understand. But the man who hears and understands we call mad, and flee from him.” The madman was a figure who haunted Gibran throughout his life; naked, vulnerable and without a mask for protection against the destructive powers around him. “Doubt is a pain too lonely to know that faith is his twin brother,” he wrote – perhaps as much to reassure himself as others. Kahlil Gibran wished to write small books that could be read in one sitting and carried in the pocket. Between 1918 and 1926 he wrote four such books, and these were his first in English: The Madman (1918); The Forerunner (1920); Sand and Foam (1926) and The Prophet (1923). The first three are collections of parables and aphorisms, which in true Eastern style draw on a world of kings, hermits, saints, slaves, deserts, animals that talk and wind that laughs. The Prophet, which was to become enduringly popular, is different; a prose piece which is longer and partly auto-biographical. In the story, a young man prepares to leave for his homeland; but first he must say goodbye to those he has lived amongst for the previous twelve years. The book is his farewell speech, touching on love, friendship, children, joy, sorrow and much else besides. Summing up the message of the book, Gibran said this: “The whole prophet is saying one thing: ‘You are far far greater than you know – and all is well.’” Only in his private letters do we get a glimpse of the man for whom all was not well. Fiercely individual, he found no enduring rest in any relationship; and ever dismissive of authority, he was a unifier in the face of exclusive religious claims. “I love you when you bow in your 6

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mosque; kneel in your temple; pray in your church. For you and I are sons of one religion, and it is the spirit.” Often in physical pain from a childhood accident, and suffering increasingly from anxiety, Gibran first became dependent on alcohol and was then destroyed by it, dying at the age of 48. Fittingly for a man who lived in one country but who always looked back to another, there are memorials to him both in Boston, Washington D.C. and in Bsharri, where he was finally buried, and to whose people he gave the proceeds of his books – so that in future, other Syrians would not have to emigrate due to poverty, as once he had been forced to do. “Half of what I say is meaningless,” he wrote. “But I say it so that the other half may reach you.” Through Gibran’s writing, much has reached many. simon parke 2009


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i a m for e v er walking upon these shores, betwixt the sand and the foam. The high tide will erase my footprints, and the wind will blow away the foam. But the sea and the shore will remain. Forever. once i filled my hand with mist. Then I opened it and lo, the mist was a worm. And I closed and opened my hand again, and behold there was a bird. And again I closed and opened my hand, and in its hollow stood a man with a sad face, turned upward. And again I closed my hand, and when I opened it there was naught but mist. But I heard a song of exceeding sweetness.

it wa s bu t yesterday I thought myself a fragment quivering without rhythm in the sphere of life. Now I know that I am the sphere, and all life in rhythmic fragments moves within me.

th ey say to m e in their awakening, “You and the world you live in are but a grain of sand upon the infinite shore of an infinite sea.” And in my dream I say to them, “I am the infinite sea, and all worlds are but grains of sand upon my shore.”

on ly once h av e i been made mute. It was when a man asked me, “Who are you?”

the first thought of God was an angel. The first word of God was a man.

w e w er e flu tt eri ng, wandering, longing creatures a thousand thousand years before the sea and 9

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the wind in the forest gave us words. Now how can we express the ancient of days in us with only the sounds of our yesterdays?

th e sphi n x spok e only once, and the Sphinx said, “A grain of sand is a desert, and a desert is a grain of sand; and now let us all be silent again.� I heard the Sphinx, but I did not understand.

long did i li e in the dust of Egypt, silent and unaware of the seasons. Then the sun gave me birth, and I rose and walked upon the banks of the Nile, Singing with the days and dreaming with the nights. And now the sun threads upon me with a thousand feet that I may lie again in the dust of Egypt. But behold a marvel and a riddle! The very sun that gathered me cannot scatter me. Still erect am I, and sure of foot do I walk upon the banks of the Nile.

r em em br a nce is a form of meeting. forgetf u ln ess is a form of freedom. w e m ea su r e ti m e according to the movement of countless suns; and they measure time by little machines in their little pockets. Now tell me, how could we ever meet at the same place and the same time?

space is not space between the earth and the sun to one who looks down from the windows of the Milky Way.


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h u m a n it y is a r i v er of light running from the ex-eternity to eternity.

do not the spirits who dwell in the ether envy man his pain?

on m y way to the Holy City I met another pilgrim and I asked him, “Is this indeed the way to the Holy City?” And he said, “Follow me, and you will reach the Holy City in a day and a night.” And I followed him. And we walked many days and many nights, yet we did not reach the Holy City. And what was to my surprise he became angry with me because he had misled me. m a k e m e, oh god , the prey of the lion, ere you make the rabbit my prey.

on e m ay not reach the dawn save by the path of the night.

m y house says to me, “Do not leave me, for here dwells your past.” And the road says to me, “Come and follow me, for I am your future.” And I say to both my house and the road, “I have no past, nor have I a future. If I stay here, there is a going in my staying; and if I go there is a staying in my going. Only love and death will change all things.”

sev en t i m es h av e I despised my soul: The first time when I saw her being meek that she might attain height. The second time when I saw her limping before the crippled. The third time when she was given to 11

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choose between the hard and the easy, and she chose the easy. The fourth time when she committed a wrong, and comforted herself that others also commit wrong. The ďŹ fth time when she forbore for weakness, and attributed her patience to strength. The sixth time when she despised the ugliness of a face, and knew not that it was one of her own masks. And the seventh time when she sang a song of praise, and deemed it a virtue.

how ca n i lose faith in the justice of life, when the dreams of those who sleep upon feathers are not more beautiful than the dreams of those who sleep upon the earth? Strange, the desire for certain pleasures is a part of my pain.

i a m ignor a n t of absolute truth. But I am humble before my ignorance and therein lies my honour and my reward.

ther e is a space between man’s imagination and man’s attainment that may only be traversed by his longing.

pa r a dise is th er e , behind that door, in the next room; but I have lost the key. Perhaps I have only mislaid it.

you a r e bli n d and I am deaf and dumb, so let us touch hands and understand.

th e sign ifica nce of man is not in what he attains, but rather in what he longs to attain. 12

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som e of us are like ink and some like paper. And if it were not for the blackness of some of us, some of us would be dumb; and if it were not for the whiteness of some of us, some of us would be blind. gi v e m e a n ea r and I will give you a voice. ou r m i n d is a sponge; our heart is a stream. Is it not strange that most of us choose sucking rather than running?

w h en you long for blessings that you may not name, and when you grieve knowing not the cause, then indeed you are growing with all things that grow, and rising toward your greater self.

w h en on e is drunk with a vision, he deems his faint expression of it the very wine.

you dri n k w i n e that you may be intoxicated; and I drink that it may sober me from that other wine.

w h en m y c u p is empty I resign myself to its emptiness; but when it is half full I resent its half-fullness.

the rea lit y of the other person is not in what he reveals to you, but in what he cannot reveal to you. Therefore, if you would understand him, listen not to what he says but rather to what he does not say.

h a lf of w h at I say is meaningless; but I say it so that the other half may reach you. 13

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a sense of humour is a sense of proportion. m y lon eli n ess wa s born when men praised my talkative faults and blamed my silent virtues.

w h en life does not find a singer to sing her heart she produces a philosopher to speak her mind.

a truth is to be known always, to be uttered sometimes.

th e r ea l in us is silent; the acquired is talkative. the voice of life in me cannot reach the ear of life in you; but let us talk that we may not feel lonely.

w h en t wo wom en talk they say nothing; when one woman speaks she reveals all of life. frogs m ay bellow louder than bulls, but they cannot drag the plough in the field nor turn the wheel of the winepress, and of their skins you cannot make shoes.

on ly the dum b envy the talkative. if w i n t er shou ld say, “spring is in my heart,” who would believe winter?

ev ery seed is a longing. shou ld you r ea lly open your eyes and see; 14

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you would behold your image in all images. And should you open your ears and listen; you would hear your own voice in all voices.

it ta k es t wo of us to discover truth: one to utter it and one to understand it. though th e wav e of words is forever upon us, yet our depth is forever silent.

m a n y a doctri n e is like a window pane. We see truth through it but it divides us from truth. now let us play hide and seek. Should you hide in my heart it would not be diďŹƒcult to ďŹ nd you. But should you hide behind your own shell, then it would be useless for anyone to seek you. A woman may veil her face with a smile.

how noble is the sad heart who would sing a joyous song with joyous hearts.

h e w ho wou ld understand a woman, or dissect genius, or solve the mystery of silence is the very man who would wake from a beautiful dream to sit at a breakfast table. i wou ld wa lk with all those who walk. I would not stand still to watch the procession passing by.

you ow e mor e than gold to him who serves you. Give him of your heart or serve him. 15

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nay, w e h av e not lived in vain. Have they not built towers of our bones?

let us not be particular and sectional. The poet’s mind and the scorpion’s tail rise in glory from the same earth.

ev ery dr agon gi v es birth to a St. George who slays it.

trees a r e poems that the earth writes upon the sky. We fell them down and turn them into paper that we may record our emptiness.

shou ld you ca r e to write (and only the saints know why you should) you must needs have knowledge and art and music – the knowledge of the music of words, the art of being artless, and the magic of loving your readers. th ey dip th eir pens in our hearts and think they are inspired.

shou ld a tr ee write its autobiography it would not be unlike the history of a race.

poetry is not an opinion expressed. It is a song that rises from a bleeding wound or a smiling mouth.

if i w er e to choose between the power of writing a poem and the ecstasy of a poem unwritten, I would choose the ecstasy. It is better poetry. But you and 16

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all my neighbours agree that I always choose badly.

words a r e tim eless . You should utter them or write them with a knowledge of their timelessness.

a poet is a dethroned king sitting among the ashes of his palace trying to fashion an image out of the ashes.

poetry is a deal of joy and pain and wonder, with a dash of the dictionary.

i n va i n sh a ll a poet seek the mother of the songs of his heart?

once i sa id to a poet, “We shall not know your worth until you die.” And he answered saying, “Yes, death is always the revealer. And if indeed you would know my worth it is that I have more in my heart than upon my tongue, and more in my desire than in my hand.”

if you si ng of beau t y though alone in the heart of the desert, you will have an audience.

poetry is w isdom that enchants the heart. Wisdom is poetry that sings in the mind. If we could enchant man’s heart and at the same time sing in his mind, then in truth he would live in the shadow of God.

i nspir ation w ill a lways sing; inspiration will never explain. 17

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w e oft en si ng lullabies to our children that we ourselves may sleep.

a ll ou r words are but crumbs that fall down from the feast of the mind.

thi n k i ng is always the stumbling stone to poetry. a gr eat si nger is he who sings our silences. how ca n you sing if your mouth be filled with food? How shall your hand be raised in blessing if it is filled with gold? th ey say th e n ighti nga le pierces his bosom with a thorn when he sings his love song. So do we all. How else should we sing? gen ius is bu t a robin’s song at the beginning of a slow spring.

ev en the most winged spirit cannot escape physical necessity.

a m a dm a n is not less a musician than you or myself; only the instrument on which he plays is a little out of tune. no longi ng remains unfulfilled. th e song th at lies silent in the heart of a mother sings upon the lips of her child. 18

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i h av e n ev er agreed with my other self wholly. The truth of the matter seems to lie between us. you r oth er self is always sorry for you. But your other self grows on sorrow; so all is well.

th er e is no struggle of soul and body save in the minds of those whose souls are asleep and whose bodies are out of tune. w h en you r each the heart of life you shall find beauty in all things, even in the eyes that are blind to beauty.

w e li v e on ly to discover beauty. All else is a form of waiting.

sow a seed and the earth will yield you a flower. Dream your dream to the sky and it will bring you your beloved.

the dev il di ed the very day you were born. Now you do not have to go through hell to meet an angel.

m a n y a wom a n borrows a man’s heart; few possess it.

if you would possess you must not claim. w h en a m a n ’s hand touches the hand of a woman they both touch the heart of eternity.


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lov e is th e veil between lover and lover. ev ery m a n loves two women; the one is the creation of his imagination, and the other is not yet born. m en w ho do not forgive women their little faults will never enjoy their great virtues.

lov e th at does not renew itself every day becomes a habit and in turn a slavery.

lov ers em br ace th at which is between them rather than each other.

lov e a n d doubt have never been on speaking terms.

lov e is a word of light, written by a hand of light, upon a page of light.

fri en dship is a lways a sweet responsibility, never an opportunity.

if you do not understand your friend under all conditions you will never understand him.

you r most r a di a n t garment is of the other person’s weaving; your most savoury meal is that which you eat at the other person’s table; your most comfortable bed is in the other person’s house. Now tell me, how can you separate yourself from the other person?


Sand and Foam by Kahlil Gibran