Stellar guest writer CHADI invites the House of Art Magazine’s readers into the writings of Gebran Khalil Gebran on Love. The writer tackles the subject mentioned in the famous book “The Prophet” while taking a closer look in comparison at GKG’s famous painting “Love”. (Further information about the writer is available in the bio section at the end of the entry).
I’m a strong believer that one book is capable of changing your life for the good, it can improve it by giving you a new perspective on a particular subject, which can then be approached from a different angle, thus greatly improving your quality of life and, well-being. For me, that book is Gebran Khalil Gibran’s “The Prophet”.
Eight years ago, while I attended the School of Versailles for my studies in architecture, I commuted from one campus to another to get to my respective classes which took an hour ride on the bus. I chose a book to keep me company, “The Prophet” by Gebran Khalil Gebran. Little did I know, that bus ride would change my life and, career. Gebran taught me about work, prayer, gratitude, and most importantly about love. one of the things I learned is that Love may seem like a floating magical word on its own, but it needs so much work, care, tenderness, and patience.
In “The Prophet”, Gebran describes two sides of love, the side that contributes to one’s growth, flourishing, and well-being, and the painful, crushing side of it where he writes “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.” What Gebran is basically saying to me is that love is no easy thing to endure, it’s not the magical thing we are all promised, it can make your life wonderful, but it can be the sole cause of your demise. Many have lost dearly because when love called for them they listened, and followed through. Love is a leap of faith, it teaches you about your strengths, and your weaknesses, it shows you just how much you can endure in terms of suffering, and how much patience you might have. Love can also get you to the highest points in life, immersing you in happiness when you selflessly take care of someone other than yourself. “It is when you give of yourself that you truly give”.
In his take on marriage, Gebran points out that love is not only that scary mystique he mentions when talking about it previously. Love is sacrifice, compromise, respect and trust. All the practical elements of a healthy relationship put in the most beautiful words possible “Love one another, but make not a bond of love. Let it rather be a moving sea between the shores of your souls…Sing and dance together and be joyous, but let each one of you be alone.” In a marriage or a relationship, it is crucial to have personal time and space, a separate identity from that of the partner, that should never dissipate into the relationship. Having and giving time and space is not only for our well-being, but it can be a great sign of independency, and most importantly trust. I understood that these elements are not easy to acquire, they require so much maturity, confidence, and of course, love.
In GKG’s painting titled “Love” featured in “The Prophet”, Gebran paints a man and woman, both naked and leaning into one another. Nudity can be indicating the comfort both feel towards each other, the comfort to show everything, from insecurities to vulnerabilities. Their heads blending into each other showing closeness, and intimacy, and their arms resting on the body of their lover. They are each other’s rock, and sanctuary, strongly connected. And yet if we take a look at the feet, they are floating, they give the sensation of hovering, the feet are not rooted to the ground, nor entangled into the legs of the other. Signs of their independence, not stemming from the same ground, unique, leaning into one another but they are two bodies, two hearts, two souls. The feet are free to roam and go anywhere they please, the moment the upper body connection of the mind and heart is lost they are both still a separate and unique entity, with its own thoughts and life perception.
To me, the painting “Love” showed a strong and healthy relationship where being strong meant being unique, with personal ideals, points of view and, self-appointed time. Yet it also meant being naked and vulnerable enough to let lose into the arms of the lover, revealing every insecurity, while immersing in the deep connection.
Gebran writes that he has been in love. His love for May Ziadah, and the letters he wrote to her for well over a decade were his story. This might be the greatest long distance relationship to have ever existed, and yet sadly they never met. The letters that Gebran wrote are further proof of what his literary work, and art work entail. In a letter he wrote in New York, on February 7th 1919, Gebran reads “…I shall write a poem on the smile of May, and if I had a picture of her smiling I would have done so today.” In the same letter Gebran shows distraught and how he was taken back by her criticism of “The Madman”. This indicates that these letters were magical, yet so real, they weren’t pages of endless poetry and flirting, they were clashes of two strong literary personalities, each with their own perspective, and they disagreed, in love. He fell in love with a strong, independent, woman, capable of her own creations and thoughts, much like him, yet they were different in many ways, similar to his painting “Love”. In another letter that was written on October 5th 1923 this clash of the minds is clearly visible “…I find you and myself to be the most quarrelsome of adversaries engaged in a duel, a duel of the intellect consisting of nothing but finite measurements and limited results”.
Gebran suffered greatly from this distance and longing, he was willing to endure them for the small hope of uniting with May. Many times May herself did not make it easy for him, he mentions that sometimes she did not reply to a letter and that he never saw it as “wickedness” on her behalf. Even towards the last of his letters to her, he still dreamt of her, and heard her voice. He suffered when he answered the call of love.
Gebran Khalil Gebran bravely painted a picture on love, how magical yet real love can be, inducing happiness, inspiring others to make timeless creations, and masterpieces, while love is a risk that can rob tranquility. Love is selfless and will push the becoming of better people, their compromise, and their sacrifice with pleasure.
Gebran taught me about love.