BY SOFO ARCHON
Here are some of the my favorite inspirational short stories by Kahlil Gibran, from his books The Wanderer and The Madman.
Upon the Sand
Said one man to another, “At the high tide of the sea, long ago, with the point of my staff I wrote a line upon the sand; and the people still pause to read it, and they are careful that naught shall erase it.”
And the other man said, “And I to wrote a line upon the sand, but it was at low tide, and the waves of the vast sea washed it away. But tell me, what did you write?”
And the first man answered and said, “I wrote this: ‘I am he who is.’ But what did you write?”
And the other man said, “This I wrote: ‘I am but a drop of this great ocean’.”
Said the Eye one day, “I see beyond these valleys a mountain veiled with blue mist. Is it not beautiful?”
The Ear listened, and after listening intently awhile, said, “But where is any mountain? I do not hear it.”
Then the Hand spoke and said, “I am trying in vain to feel it or touch it, and I can find no mountain.”
And the Nose said, “There is no mountain, I cannot smell it.”
Then the Eye turned the other way, and they all began to talk together about the Eye’s strange delusion. And they said, “Something must be the matter with the Eye.”
A fox looked at his shadow at sunrise and said, “I will have a camel for lunch today.” And all morning he went about looking for camels. But at noon he saw his shadow again—and he said, “A mouse will do.”
The Wise King
Once there ruled in the distant city of Wirani a king who was both mighty and wise. And he was feared for his might and loved for his wisdom.
Now, in the heart of that city was a well, whose water was cool and crystalline, from which all the inhabitants drank, even the king and his courtiers; for there was no other well.
One night when all were asleep, a witch entered the city, and poured seven drops of strange liquid into the well, and said, “From this hour he who drinks this water shall become mad.”
Next morning all the inhabitants, save the king and his lord chamberlain, drank from the well and became mad, even as the witch had foretold.
And during that day the people in the narrow streets and in the market places did naught but whisper to one another, “The king is mad. Our king and his lord chamberlain have lost their reason. Surely we cannot be ruled by a mad king. We must dethrone him.”
That evening the king ordered a golden goblet to be filled from the well. And when it was brought to him he drank deeply, and gave it to his lord chamberlain to drink.
And there was great rejoicing in that distant city of Wirani, because its king and its lord chamberlain had regained their reason.
I have seen a face with a thousand countenances, and a face that was but a single countenance as if held in a mould.
I have seen a face whose sheen I could look through to the ugliness beneath, and a face whose sheen I had to lift to see how beautiful it was.
I have seen an old face much lined with nothing, and a smooth face in which all things were graven.
I know faces, because I look through the fabric my own eye weaves, and behold the reality beneath.
In the town where I was born lived a woman and her daughter, who walked in their sleep.
One night, while silence enfolded the world, the woman and her daughter, walking, yet asleep, met in their mist-veiled garden.
And the mother spoke, and she said: “At last, at last, my enemy! You by whom my youth was destroyed—who have built up your life upon the ruins of mine! Would I could kill you!”
And the daughter spoke, and she said: “O hateful woman, selfish and old! Who stand between my freer self and me! Who would have my life an echo of your own faded life! Would you were dead!”
At that moment a cock crew, and both women awoke. The mother said gently, “Is that you, darling?” And the daughter answered gently, “Yes, dear.”
In the shadow of the temple my friend and I saw a blind man sitting alone. And my friend said, “Behold the wisest man of our land.”
Then I left my friend and approached the blind man and greeted him. And we conversed.
After a while I said, “Forgive my question; but since when has thou been blind?”
“From my birth,” he answered.
Said I, “And what path of wisdom followest thou?”
Said he, “I am an astronomer.”
Then he placed his hand upon his breast saying, “I watch all these suns and moons and stars.”
Upon a day Beauty and Ugliness met on the shore of a sea. And they said to one another, “Let us bathe in the sea.”
Then they disrobed and swam in the waters. And after a while Ugliness came back to shore and garmented himself with the garments of Beauty and walked away.
And Beauty too came out of the sea, and found not her raiment, and she was too shy to be naked, therefore she dressed herself with the raiment of Ugliness. And Beauty walked her way.
And to this very day men and women mistake the one for the other.
Yet some there are who have beheld the face of Beauty, and they know her notwithstanding her garments. And some there be who know the face of Ugliness, and the cloth conceals him not from their eyes.
The Greater Sea
My soul and I went to the great sea to bathe. And when we reached the shore, we went about looking for a hidden and lonely place.
But as we walked, we saw a man sitting on a grey rock taking pinches of salt from a bag and throwing them into the sea.
“This is the pessimist,” said my soul, “Let us leave this place. We cannot bathe here.”
We walked on until we reached an inlet. There we saw, standing on a white rock, a man holding a bejeweled box, from which he took sugar and threw it into the sea.
“And this is the optimist,” said my soul, “And he too must not see our naked bodies.”
Further on we walked. And on a beach we saw a man picking up dead fish and tenderly putting them back into the water.
“And we cannot bathe before him,” said my soul. “He is the humane philanthropist.”
And we passed on.
Then we came where we saw a man tracing his shadow on the sand. Great waves came and erased it. But he went on tracing it again and again.
“He is the mystic,” said my soul, “Let us leave him.”
And we walked on, till in a quiet cover we saw a man scooping up the foam and putting it into an alabaster bowl.
“He is the idealist,” said my soul, “Surely he must not see our nudity.”
And on we walked. Suddenly we heard a voice crying, “This is the sea. This is the deep sea. This is the vast and mighty sea.” And when we reached the voice it was a man whose back was turned to the sea, and at his ear he held a shell, listening to its murmur.
And my soul said, “Let us pass on. He is the realist, who turns his back on the whole he cannot grasp, and busies himself with a fragment.”
So we passed on. And in a weedy place among the rocks was a man with his head buried in the sand. And I said to my soul, “We can bath here, for he cannot see us.”
“Nay,” said my soul, “For he is the most deadly of them all. He is the puritan.”
Then a great sadness came over the face of my soul, and into her voice.
“Let us go hence,” she said, “For there is no lonely, hidden place where we can bathe. I would not have this wind lift my golden hair, or bare my white bosom in this air, or let the light disclose my sacred nakedness.”
Then we left that sea to seek the Greater Sea.
The Field of Zaad
Upon the road of Zaad a traveller met a man who lived in a nearby village, and the traveller, pointing with his hand to a vast field, asked the man saying, “Was not this the battle-ground where King Ahlam overcame his enemies?”
And the man answered and said, “This has never been a battle-ground. There once stood on this field the great city of Zaad, and it was burnt down to ashes. But now it is a good field, is it not?”
And the traveller and the man parted.
Not a half mile farther the traveller met another man, and pointing to the field again, he said, “So that is where the great city of Zaad once stood?’
And the man said, “There has never been a city in this place. But once there was a monastery here, and it was destroyed by the people of the South Country.”
Shortly after, on that very road of Zaad, the traveller met a third man, and pointing once more to the vast field he said, “Is it not true that this is the place where once there stood a great monastery?”
But the man answered, “There has never been a monastery in this neighbourhood, but our fathers and our forefathers have told us that once there fell a great meteor on this field.”
Then the traveller walked on, wondering in his heart. And he met a very old man, and saluting his he said, “Sir, upon this road I have met three men who live in the neighbourhood and I have asked each of them about this field, and each one denied what the other had said, and each one told me a new tale that the other had not told.”
Then the old man raised his head, and answered, “My friend, each and every one of these men told you what was indeed so; but few of us are able to add fact to different fact and make a truth thereof.”