On Love (Gibran)


In life, we each have the choice as to whether we live and and love on life’s terms or our own (the ego’s) terms.  As Rilke put it, “Life is always in the right.”  But this is not what we want to believe; we want to believe that we know best, that we’re not lost, that we have things figured out well enough, that we’re more or less in control.   But to live and love on life’s terms is a much more difficult and emotionally taxing–even terrifying–yet, in theory, rewarding, meaning joyous and meaningful, way of living and orienting ourselves in the world.  That’s the wager.  Live and love on our terms or on life’s terms?  Which one will make our lives truly extraordinary, which one will allow us to become what God or the gods intended, which one will allow us to live and die well, awake, more fully alive and fully born?

The following is Gibran’s take on what it means to love on life’s term–to not cater to our ego’s excessive need for control and security, but to instead to love more bravely, more honestly, more deeply–even if doing so wounds us and takes us far beyond ourselves.

To me it’s the only way that makes sense to love: all in.  Life is too short for any other way.  No one gets out of here alive, so why live and love as if we do?

 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 love will do unto you
that you might 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 with all of your laughter,
and weep,
but not all of your tears.

For 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.

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

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 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.

( – Kahlil Gibran, “The Prophet”)

11 Responses to On Love (Gibran)

  1. Pingback: Practicing the Art of Losing: Are You a Good Sport in Life or Just Another Troubled Guest Darkening the Earth? | Full Catastrophe Living and Loving

  2. djs1@fastmail.fm says:

    Thank you

  3. cindy knoke says:

    We used a passage from Gibran in our wedding, along with “Love is not love that alters when it alteration finds. No it is a ever fixed mark that looks on tempests and is never shaken.”
    Good post.

    • John says:

      Thank you, Cindy, for reading and for commenting. 🙂 And Gibran’s words on Love are so (as in sooo000) wise and so (again, sooooo) full of deeply lived life. And I love Shakespeare’s words as well–they speak to me of a level of loving and of self-mastery and perspective that any of us can grow into and embody, if–if–we are committed to truly doing so.

      Kindest regards, Cindy, and thank you again for reading and for taking the time to comment 🙂

      John

  4. Jenian says:

    hi! i like to know if what’s the meaning of these stanzas? its interpretation.. if its ok with you 🙂
    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 love will do unto you
    that you might 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 with all of your laughter,
    and weep,
    but not all of your tears.

    For 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.

  5. Pingback: When we fret about the people in our lives, it takes the focus off of God | The Reluctant Evangelist

  6. Arlene Gregorio-De Castro says:

    I encountered this extract during the time I am questioning many things in my life. One of the question is about this topic. This just erases all my doubts about why I should give my all for love. “To know the pain of too much tenderness… And to bleed willingly and joyfully.” You cannot possibly “live” if you would not allow yourself to feel love’s highs and lows.

    Reading this again transported me back to that time. Thank you!

  7. Marjorie Joy Pilapil says:

    Hi. I just want to ask if you can give me an analysis on each stanza of the poem On Love. Please I just really need it for school works. Thank you so much 🙂

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