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Kahil Gibran on pain: Prophetic or pathetic?



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Jason Tonley from Kaiser Permanente in LA, reminded me of this old beauty from Kahlil Gibran’s classic The Prophet.  Now this stuff is written by a Lebanese American artist and poet, who was raised in poverty without formal education but with a gambling father who was jailed. After being evicted, his mum took him and his sisters and brother to Boston, where at 12 and a half, he started school.  He is now most famous for writing ‘The Prophet’, from which this excerpt is taken, but he did lots of other impressive things too. He is the third best-selling poet of all time (behind Shakespeare & Lao-Tzu according to Wikipedia).  The Prophet is considered officially as a work of inspirational fiction, although I imagine there are many who consider it to be inspirational fact.  So, Kahlil Gibran had no training in pain apart from, I imagine, substantial personal experience.  Have a read of what he wrote and you make the call – is it inspired, prophetic, helpful? Is it defensible on scientific grounds, is it appropriate for patients, should it be on your clinic wall?  Or is it wet, gratuitous and unhelpful? Is it refuted by research, is it offensive to patients, should it be avoided at all costs?  Is there a precious diamond amongst the rough? Is the whole thing gold. Is there something that really resonates with you? Why?  Regardless of your answers to these, I suspect that your life will be just slightly better if you take a little while to read it and then think about it. Really think about it. Go on. Don’t rush off – as the grandfather of a good friend said when faced with the reality of a phone that does not have to be plugged into a wall – ‘Life is not that urgent’.

On Pain

By Kahlil Gibran

Your pain is the breaking of the shell that encloses your understanding.
Even as the stone of the fruit must break, that its heart may stand in the sun, so must you know pain.
And could you keep your heart in wonder at the daily miracles of your life, your pain would not seem less wondrous than your joy;
And you would accept the seasons of your heart, even as you have always accepted the seasons that pass over your fields.
And you would watch with serenity through the winters of your grief.

Much of your pain is self-chosen.
It is the bitter potion by which the physician within you heals your sick self.
Therefore trust the physician, and drink his remedy in silence and tranquillity:
For his hand, though heavy and hard, is guided by the tender hand of the Unseen,
And the cup he brings, though it burn your lips, has been fashioned of the clay which the Potter has moistened with His own sacred tears.

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