There are some books that seek to invent new truths, some books that seek to conceal inconvenient or unpopular truths, and still other books that seek to open our eyes to commonly held but apparently forgotten truths. The Prophet by Kahlil Gibran falls into the last category. This short novel is similar to Nietzsche’s Thus Spoke Zarathustra in that they both feature a wise man giving speeches in an effort to share his wisdom with others. In Zarathustra, the reader gets the sense that Nietzsche is playing some sort of joke on him, offering all of Zarathustra’s rich and evocative speeches only to conclude that they aren’t truly worth hearing. Gibran is much more clear in The Prophet. As the titular prophet, Almustafa, prepares to leave the city of Orphalese, the townspeople gather around him and ask him to share some of his wisdom. They question him on a wide variety of subjects, including friendship, pleasure, marriage, good and evil, religion, and death. The prophet’s responses contain a philosophy of love and the embracing of life that seem to mirror the thoughts we have all had but were unable to put into words. This is not an effort to invent a new philosophical system or to deny truths that no longer fit with our society. Instead, Gibran seeks to remind us of the basic truths that have served humanity well since the dawn of civilization. These are truths that transcend society and speak to our most basic and intimate selves. In an age of cynicism and doubt, it is refreshing to read a book so full of love and so fond of life.
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