THE CHILDREN

The Children was inspired by Khalil Gibran’s The Prophet. A few years ago, in reflecting on this this spiritually moving little work, I was struck by two thoughts: first, that it was very unique; and second, that there were a great many topics Gibran left unconsidered. So I was inspired to write a sequel to it and audacious enough to actually follow through.

Below is my offering.

Unfortunately, I do not have any images to accompany it since I am not a visual artist. Maybe someone will one day be inspired to create accompanying images.

The Children: 11. On Forgiveneness

Then a man standing alone said: Speak to us about forgiveness.

The next child answered, saying:

Forgiveness is not a tool for improving your position with friends and lovers. Neither is it a weapon to use against your enemies. Forgiveness has no sharp edges and no way of giving leverage.

Forgiveness is a solvent. It disintegrates sticky knots and loosens what is hard.

Forgiveness is the gateway into simple thinking and simple living, for when you forgive you break a cycle of resentment. When you forgive with a loving heart, you stand at the dock to bid your anger and disappointment farewell, preparing to step aboard the ship that sails to a land where everyone and everything is different than it was because the old cycle is broken and something new must replace it.

Forgiveness used as a weapon is not forgiveness. If someone does not forgive you, then you lose nothing. If you do not forgive someone, then they lose nothing. Your forgiveness can only dissolve your own knots and loosen the hardness of your own heart. If you forgive someone and then the ice in her heart melts, it is only because the ice in your heart melted first, not because you forgave her.

When someone says to you “Please forgive me,” she is not asking for your help or for a favor from you. She can forgive both you and herself without your help, so she does not need your forgiveness. When she asks you to forgive her, she is giving you a gift: she is helping you to let your heart melt so that you can be happy again.

What you cannot forgive, you cannot love. If you cannot forgive yourself, you cannot love anyone, for you will always see yourself in everyone. So when you forgive, forgive others, but forgive also yourself.

When you forgive, it is victims and victimizers whom you are forgiving. If you do not forgive yourself for being a victim, you will victimize others so that you can stop feeling like a victim. Just so, if you cannot forgive yourself for being a victimizer, you will find ways to become a victim so that you can stop feeling like a victimizer. The cycle can only end with forgiveness.

Forgiveness heals and soothes the heart, but it does not impair the judgment. Forgiveness is an inner act that does not need outer acts in order to exist. If you forgive someone who is not repentant, then you are still wise to keep them at a distance, for love is just as wholesome from afar as nearby.

As forgiveness loosens what is stuck, honesty binds what is tenuous and respect supports what is cumbersome. Together, these three form the unshakable foundation of friendship.

The Children: 12. On Science & Technology

A scientist spoke next, saying: Tell us about science and technology.

The next child answered:

In every age, humankind finds an idol to praise, a statue to grovel before, and a dream to seize when light behind the eyes dims and the daily adventure is a list a chores. In your age, technology has become the idol and science the religion of those who serve it.

In technology there is the cleverness of a thief bound up with the indifference of a pigeon. It cares not where it goes or whom it serves, but only that it feeds more. And yet it is the dynamo of your age, the foundation of your way of life.

There are those of you who would escape technology as a woman escapes a cruel husband, leaving behind valuable belongings out of fear that even one moment longer would bring still more abuse. To those we say that purity is slow to arrive in this world and its face will not be familiar.

Technology is inescapable as rumors about your family are inescapable. It is the color that tints your vision of the world. And though your desire to escape be noble, it is a nobility of hopelessness.

Technology is the world bred to domestication. It, like every creation of humankind, is a song of glory to the Creator. Technology is the new life that blooms when pollinated by science. So love your technology as you love your plants. Nourish it, allow it to blossom, keep it well pruned at home, let it grow unfettered in the wilderness, but do not expect it to answer your questions or understand your anguish.

Science is the wonder and mystery of the universe wrought into a measurement. It is the wisdom of the world and a monument to the productive curiosity of humankind. In science, we reach for the Creator’s law and order.

But beware your eye for measurement.

If your search is for gold, your gaze will pass by wood and stone as though they were nothing.

If your search is for food, your attention will linger not on sleep.

If your search is for sex, you will be captivated little by the candlelight of your neighbor’s sincerity.

So if your search is for measurement, will you not also fail to see the immeasurable? The eye of science can see neither the infinite Soul nor the Creator in whose boundless heart that Soul dwells. Scrutiny is science’s virtue, but it is also science’s curse, for the scrutiny of science will lead us to disbelieve what though visible is not measurable.

The Children: 13. On Responsibility

A distinguished politician then said: Speak to us about responsibility.

The next child answered, saying:

You are responsible for what belongs to you and nothing belongs to you unless you take responsibility for it.

Blame has no seeds and yields no harvest; indeed, blame can only give away what is yours. Does the swamp blame the rain for drowning it? Does the doe blame the wolf for hunting her? Then be as the swamp and the doe.

Guilt is the pang of blame upon self and wrath is the dart of blame upon another. Guilt and wrath will come and pass and return just as a fever comes and passes and returns while the deeper infection remains. If you would be free of this fever, the remedy is to take responsibility as the swamp does.

And how does the swamp take responsibility? It takes care of its water. The swamp did not ask to be flooded, but now it is. So it calls out to Earth, “bring me your swimming creatures and your aqueous insects; bring me your algae and your cypress trees. I was once a forest, but am now a swamp.” And so it loves and nurtures what it has been bestowed.

Everything you have is given to you and it is yours to take care of, not by law, but only by responsibility. For if you do not take care of what is yours, it will be taken from you by time if by nothing else.

The Children: 14. On Craving & Desire

A monk then stood and said: Speak to us about craving and desire.

The next child answered:

Your cravings are your desires condensed into the small and familiar. They are the entire storm condensed into a whistle and splash.

There are those of you who feel imprisoned by your cravings, as though a death of the Soul were slowly creeping over you. To you we say that you have muffled your ears and donned a coat, but you have not escaped the storm. Craving does not subside until the storm of desire has passed.

Craving is a longing for the fullness of the Creator focused into the narrowest passage. It is the message whose hum is heard but whose meaning is lost.

Desire, however, is an invitation from Soul to self. It is the Creator walking among us, dressed as an outlaw. At the center of each desire lies the Truth, whose impulse propels your ships ever forward into waters unfamiliar.

Your most precious desire is for freedom, but you do not realize that in despising your desires, you condense them into a prison of craving.

To trust that within each desire is the crystalline will of an angel is to navigate to the shores of heaven itself.

Set sail upon your own waters, and do not fear that your desires are hungry krakens, for indeed they are the very wind in your sails.

And when your desires bring you to a moment of conflict between Soul and self, when what you desire seems wrong in its very essence, look within for the angel whose vision is clear and whose heart knows no malice. There is no thought or feeling that this angel does not cherish. The angel will cast new light upon your desires, revealing in them the most innocent impulse: love between Creator and creation.

The Children: 15. On Ritual

Then a priestess said: Speak to us about ritual.

The next child answered:

Ritual is the tool that transforms the mundane into the magical. But a tool can only serve the purpose of the hand guides it.

In the hands of the inattentive, ritual is a tool for completing chores just as a robot might. A robot will not ask why it must perform its actions in a certain order with a certain pace; it simply does so. Nor does a robot know that ritual is symbolic and passionate, for it cannot recognize symbols and passions.

In the hands of the unskilled, ritual is a tool that creates a cacophonous concert. The orchestra knows that music is to be played, but the musicians are playing different songs and the conductor fails to notice. The audience will leave confused. Why would they return for another performance?

Ritual is the symphony, your actions are the notes and your life is the performance. Each note must be played with the utmost care, as though the victory and anguish of the entire world rests upon this one note. In this one note lies the Creator, the creation and the love of all for all. So attend to the symphony, for the orchestra itself is an audience, even if the arena is empty.

Into the hands of the careful, the attentive, the practiced, are placed the glory and power of the Creator. It is these with whom all of humanity rejoices and weeps.

The Children: 16. On Convenience

A successful businessman stood and said: speak to us about convenience.

The next child answered, saying:

Do not give to a machine work that the hand happily does.

The machine cannot take joy in its work or care for the details, nor can its yield be imperfect in the most endearing ways.

Each drop of sweat, spent in even the smallest way, is a song of praise to the Creator, a gift to the self, and an act of love toward the work itself.

The floor longs to we swept, the table to be built, the pie to be baked. Just as a child gains without measure from time given generously, so does everything else.

But where the hand is resentful, stingy or frustrated, it is better to give the task to a machine, for the machine will not knit curses into the blanket.

Indeed, if blessed, the machine can carry some of that blessing into its work. For does the car that is loved not last longer and run more smoothly? This is its own display of gratitude.

And so with everything: grace for grace, gratitude for care, fault for curses, excellence for blessings.

The Children: 17. On Honesty

Then a young woman standing with her parents said: Speak to us about honesty.

The next child answered:

Honesty is cheaper than cunning.

It is sharp and swift as an arrow and just as simple.

To tell the truth is not yet honesty, for honesty strives for more than truth. When you tell the truth others trust in your words, but when you are honest they trust in your Soul.

An honest secret is as a grain of sand to the clam. Once it finds its way in, it is transmuted into a jewel hidden for the finding by one curious enough to open the clam. So when you look into the eyes of your loved ones, save the jewel. To most it will look like a rock, yet its secrecy will be cherished all the more when you find someone to share it with.

A dishonest secret is as a parasite to the body. It eats away at the healthy tissue and hides itself from its host. So when you look into the eyes of your loved ones, expel the parasite. It will writhe and sting everyone around you, but when it dies you will be healthier for it.

Sometimes honesty demands silence because telling the truth helps no one and harms everyone. Other times honesty demands exaggeration because that is the only way you will be understood.

In honesty, there is kindness and courtesy, strength and discipline, but most importantly sincerity and fairness.

If you would be honest, then wear vulnerability as an armor. Your heart’s nakedness will reveal to you the vulnerabilities of others and you will learn to soothe and bless their weaknesses.

The Children: 18. On Secrets

The same young woman spoke again, saying: Please tell us more about secrets.

The next child answered, saying:

There are no secrets as you think of them. You clothe ourselves in your thoughts and bathe yourselves in your feelings.

What you do not speak aloud is yet visible to everyone, but most do not believe that they can see the thoughts and feelings of others.

What you do not believe does not flee but hides from your sight, just as guilt hides from the mind of an aggressor, lurking in the caverns of Soul, calling to him like a Siren.

So, though you may hide from yourself, do not expect that in secrets you will remain hidden from others. Rather, keep no secrets from yourself, and share your secrets with your neighbor.

Keep only those secrets that your neighbor could not bear to know. The secret thoughts and feelings wrapped around you are hidden from his sight because to know them would be to discover his own minotaur lurking in the caverns of Self. To share your secrets with such a person would be to injure him and so also yourself.

The Children: 19. On Justice

Then a judge said: Speak to us about justice.

The next child answered:

Nature metes out justice more vigorously than any human, though it has no interest in schedule.

Its judgments are fairer and its mistakes fewer, though it never deigns to explain itself.

So trust in the hand of nature.

When your adversary wins at every turn and you are the only one who knows that deceit and fraud were the substance of his gains, is it for you then to bring him to justice? Justice will find him.

Can you say what suffering is in his heart, why his pain must be eased through the pain of others? And if you could, what remedy could you offer? Or do you hope to ease your own pain through his?

Nature brings our adversaries to justice so that we may be relieved of becoming as they. And if nature’s response displeases, know that there is no vengeance which can heal the unforgiving heart.

When a man strikes and insults you or your family, speak out, for valor can be compassionate. But when vices are used as tools and not weapons, it is not for you to judge another’s heart or hand.

Protect the garden, but do not hunt the weasel. A sharper shot than yours will surely one day find him.

And if upholding justice is the charge that you have been given by your peers, then take nature as your model. Find proportion, but release resentment. Find fairness, but release perfection.

The Children: 20. On Fighting

An activist spoke next: Tell us about fighting.

The next child answered, saying:

There is nothing to fight for and nothing to fight against.

When you fight you are the aggressor, and when you defend you are the perpetrator.

You fight because you have found an enemy in yourself who wears the face of the antagonist in your life.

What can be won in fighting? Can you open a heart or change a mind?

Fighting is a hammer. On its own, it can only harden and crush. A just cause is a nail, but even with the nail, a hammer cannot bind two things together without damaging them.

And is there a just cause? When you fight, you must have an enemy. But who will be your enemy? How will you measure justice? And who deserves the punishment?

The world will change whether you fight or not. Your life will change whether you fight or not. But hearts will only open when you set aside the hammer.

The truly Evil are very rare. Do indeed protect the city from such threats, but be careful in your judgment that another is Evil. A mistake in such a matter undermines your intention to protect. Remember, though, that love, honesty, and kindness repel the truly Evil as the herbs in a garden repel the insects that eat the harvest. The environment becomes inhospitable to the parasite. Such is the protection you seek.

So let your fighting heart become your sense of integrity. Let your will to defend transform into a will to heal. When your aggression finds an enemy, strip the face from your antagonist and learn to accept once again the self with whom you are embattled. And when you do find yourself fighting, embrace the fighting self without starting a new fight within.

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