we do not know what we do not know

by michelle on December 14, 2011

Many years ago I was the maid of honor in a friend’s wedding. I wanted to read something deep and meaningful so I went to my bookshelf where the mysterious books my grandmother had given me lived: books with browned and cracked covers, by authors whose names I couldn’t pronounce. Books for mature and wise eyes.

I opened Kahlil Gibran’s The Prophet and turned to the chapter On Love thinking Well this will be a no-brainer!

Much to my dismay the piece was a total downer. Not at all appropriate for a happy wedding reading. I probably made a that smells bad face and moved on to Joan Walsh Anglund.

We do not know what we do not know.

Returning to this passage all these years later, all these experiences later, I understand. Or at least I understand in a different way.

Threshed, quivering, naked and pliant.

I hope you have a moment to take it in. Read it slowly. Drink it like warm tea. Aloud if you can. To a Friend if you are inclined.


From the Prophet by Kahlil Gibran

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.

When you love you should not say, “God is in my heart,” but rather, “I am in the heart of God.”
And 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.

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Keleigh December 14, 2011 at 7:16 pm

I listen to The Prophet every year on Mt. Shasta. Intensely beautiful every time – and becomes truer and truer as I grow. <3


Liz December 15, 2011 at 4:02 pm

you’re right, i would not have understood this years ago. reading it aloud was so powerful. thanks for sharing.


Kelley December 16, 2011 at 1:04 am

True and beautiful. Only 10 years of marriage and I think I may also be more capable of understanding this passage. Thanks for the piece and the lasting thoughts lingering after reading once and then twice. Loves XOXO


Carmen December 17, 2011 at 5:18 pm

Thank you, thank you, thank you for sharing.


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