Kahlil Gibran: The Drunkard Lebanese-American, He Follows Me

by Larry Fyffe

Sufism is an offshoot of Islam that’s characterized by asceticism and mysticism. A Sufi looks inwardly to his/her mind and soul for the meaning of human existence rather than outwardly to the doctrines of orthodox religion that exclude ‘strangers’ and ‘nonbelievers’. Within every individual human, it’s believed, there exists a spiritual light that can be ignited in spite of sordid conditions on earth that an individual may endure.

The writings of Sufi poet Rumi influence the song lyrics of Bob Dylan and The Grateful Dead. Likewise, the Sufi poetry of Omar Khayaam, but, in contrast to Rumi, Omar looks inwardly with the assistance of a ‘jug of wine’. Kahlil Gibran, a Lebanese-American writer, is a Sufist who’s influenced by Christianity as well as by preRomantic poet William Blake, and members of the Romantic Transcendentalist literary movement. Perhaps because he leads a lifestyle that’s inconsistent with his espoused asceticism, Gibran, ‘the prophet’, would become overly influenced by alcohol.

‘The Prophet’ is a short book in prose poetry by Kahlil Gibran, a boiled soup of biblical-like aphorisms often expressed in paradoxical terms. Advice on how to live one’s life is given through the persona of a prophet who’s waiting for a symbolic ship that’s going to take him home. Rather open to subjective interpretations by readers the book’s aphorisms be.

The book is all the rage in America during the time of the people’s rebellion against the war in Vietnam:

And he beheld his ship coming with the mist
Then the gates of his heart were flung open
And his joy flew far over the sea
And he closed his eyes, and prayed in the silences of his soul
(Kahlil Gibran: The Prophet)

its poetic words echo in the song lyrics below:

A song will lift
As the mainsail shifts
And the boat drifts on to the shore line
And the sun will respect
Every face on the deck
The hour that the ship comes in
(Bob Dylan: When The Ship Comes In)

According to the aphorism below, seeking out material things and physical pleasures be not the high road to spiritual joy:

There are those who give little of the much they have ....
And there are those who have little and give it all
They are the believers in life, and the bounty of life
(Kahlil Gibran: The Prophet)

However, the aphorism below by the singer/songwriter turns things around, and leaves room for Omar’s hedonistic thoughts of ‘a jug of wine and thou”:

Some people will offer you their hand, and some won't
Last night I knew you, tonight I don't
(Bob Dylan: Mississippi)

For Gibran’s prophet, love is unselfish whether it’s parental or otherwise:

Your children are not your children
They are the sons and daughters of Life's yearning for itself ....
You may give them your love, but not your thoughts
For they have their own thoughts
You may house their bodies, but not their souls
(Kahili Gibran: The Prophet)

An ascetic sentiment expressed in the following song lyrics:

Come mothers and fathers throughout the land
And don't criticize what you don't understand
Your sons and your daughters are beyond your command
(Bob Dylan: The Times They Are A-Changing)

Expressed again in the aphorism below, albeit not so adamantly that grown-ups ought not be possessive:

I once knew a woman, a child I'm told
I give her my heart, but she wanted my soul
But don't think twice, it's all right
(Bob Dylan: Don't Think Twice)

What else is on the site

You’ll find some notes about our latest posts arranged by themes and subjects on the home page.  You can also see details of our main sections on this site at the top of this page under the picture.

The index to all the 594 Dylan compositions and co-compositions that we have found on the A to Z page.

We also have a very lively discussion group “Untold Dylan” on Facebook with over 2000 active members.  (Try imagining a place where it is always safe and warm).  Just type the phrase “Untold Dylan” in, on your Facebook page or follow this link 

If you are interested in Dylan’s work from a particular year or era, your best place to start is Bob Dylan year by year.

On the other hand if you would like to write for this website, please do drop me a line with details of your idea, or if you prefer, a whole article.  Email Tony@schools.co.uk

And please do note   The Bob Dylan Project, which lists every Dylan song in alphabetical order, and has links to licensed recordings and performances by Dylan and by other artists, links back to our reviews

What else is on the site

You’ll find some notes about our latest posts arranged by themes and subjects on the home page.  You can also see details of our main sections on this site at the top of this page under the picture.

The index to all the 594 Dylan compositions and co-compositions that we have found on the A to Z page.

We also have a very lively discussion group “Untold Dylan” on Facebook with over 2000 active members.  (Try imagining a place where it is always safe and warm).  Just type the phrase “Untold Dylan” in, on your Facebook page or follow this link 

If you are interested in Dylan’s work from a particular year or era, your best place to start is Bob Dylan year by year.

On the other hand if you would like to write for this website, please do drop me a line with details of your idea, or if you prefer, a whole article.  Email Tony@schools.co.uk

And please do note   The Bob Dylan Project, which lists every Dylan song in alphabetical order, and has links to licensed recordings and performances by Dylan and by other artists, links back to our reviews

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1 Response to Kahlil Gibran: The Drunkard Lebanese-American, He Follows Me

  1. wonderful & illuminating – keep ’em coming – diolch / spacebo / thank you, Paul

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