Over the past few years, I have developed a deep appreciation for the work of Khalil Gibran, a Lebanese-American poet whose words always lead me to self-reflect after reading them. Even though Gibran’s most famous work The Prophet* was published nearly a century ago, the human experience to which he speaks is timeless, and many would benefit by hearing what he has to say. While The Prophet contains many gems, one of my favorite poems regards the interactions between two emotions: joy and sorrow.
While we all love the high points in our lives, it would be impossible to find a person who has never experienced sorrow of some kind at some point. Some are more acquainted with it than others, though it has inevitably touched us all, from life-shattering events like a death in the family to even mundane things like a bad score on an exam. Generally, we all try to avoid things that make us sorrowful, even if our proposed remedy is actually even further to our detriment. Why? Sorrow simply doesn’t feel good. Actually, I dislike sorrow so much that I will make a vow here and now to live my life with as little sorrow as possible. Nevertheless, a vow is not a protection spell, and there will probably be more moments of sorrow in my future and your future as well. Unfortunately, this is inevitable.
Thankfully, joy is inevitable as well. Be it admission into a dream school, watching a favorite tv show, or waving at the baby in the grocery store; joy is all around us. Sometimes it comes in small moments, and sometimes you can ride the feeling for years. While we all have different tastes and things that bring us joy, I’ve yet to meet a person that hates joy as a concept. It is very natural to seek out things that make us happy, and I encourage you to do the same. Buy a cake, kiss someone, cook your favorite meal, whatever makes you happy.
I do not want to turn this post into poetry analysis, but I will post it below. All I ask is to read it and give yourself five to ten minutes to think about it. All in all, I hope this makes you want to read more Gibran!
On Joy and Sorrow
Then a woman said, Speak to us of Joy and Sorrow.
And he answered:
Your joy is your sorrow unmasked.
And the selfsame well from which your laughter rises was oftentimes filled with your tears.
And how else can it be?
The deeper that sorrow carves into your being, the more joy you can contain.
Is not the cup that holds your wine the very cup that was burned in the potter’s oven?
And is not the lute that soothes your spirit, the very wood that was hollowed with knives?
When you are joyous, look deep into your heart and you shall find it is only that which has given you sorrow that is giving you joy.
When you are sorrowful look again in your heart, and you shall see that in truth you are weeping for that which has been your delight.
Some of you say, “Joy is greater than sorrow,” and others say, “Nay, sorrow is the greater.”
But I say unto you, they are inseparable.
Together they come, and when one sits alone with you at your board, remember that the other is asleep upon your bed.
Verily you are suspended like scales between your sorrow and your joy.
Only when you are empty are you at standstill and balanced.
When the treasure-keeper lifts you to weigh his gold and his silver, needs must your joy or your sorrow rise or fall.
*This book is in the public domain.
A few days after I finished writing this post, Brooklyn Center PD killed a young man named Daunte Wright. Due to this tragedy, Daunte leaves behind a girlfriend and an infant son. If you wish to assist them, please go to @holisticheaux on instagram for more information. There is also a link to a funeral fund in their bio.