This morning I wanted to remember Kahlil Gibran’s writing about children because I have been feeling lately like a life raft where all the people who were hanging on have swum away but they don’t want me to pull up anchor yet because they might need to come back and it was that feeling of needing to know my place that made me get up and find my old copy of The Prophet.
Mine was given to me by a strange friend in college. She wrote long quotes inside the front and back cover, things she thought had meaning to the two of us. I think she was a little in love with me. She was very short with long hair, parted in the middle. She lived two doors down in my dorm with a woman who was also my friend and who played the guitar late into the night and sang “Love hurts, love scars, love wounds and mars, any heart not tough or strong to take a lot of pain, take a lot of pain, love is like a cloud holds a lot of rain, love hurts.” They made candles by pouring hot wax into half gallon milk cartons; the candles were lit in their room all the time. It was a little mecca.
The piece I wanted to read this morning was about children. So I found my book and found the page, ignoring the letters stuffed between pages, one from my mother when my older daughter was born and one from a lover who was so intense at the time that he made me weep just looking at him. I didn’t want to read either letter or look at any of the other cards and message and leaves, even one perfectly preserved, looking like it was picked last fall. I noticed that much before I found what I wanted on page 17.
And a woman who held a babe against her bosom said, Speak to us of Children,
And he said:
Your children are not your children.
They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself.
The come through you but not from you,
And though they are with you yet they belong not to you.
You may give them your love but not your thoughts,
For they have their own thoughts.
You may house their bodies but not their souls,
For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow, which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.
You may strive to be like them, but seek not to make them like you.
For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.
You are the bows from which your children as living arrows are sent forth.
The archer seems the mark upon the path of the infinite, and He bends you with His might that His arrows may go swift and far.
Let your bending in the archer’s hand be for gladness;
For even as He loves the arrow that flies, so He loves also the bow that is stable.
—Kahlil Gibran, The Prophet
And so I was reminded of my job during this odd time of low traffic on the life raft. It’s my job, still, always, to endeavor to be the “bow that is stable.”
And a bow is what I’ll be today because, as it says in The Prophet, I cannot visit the house of tomorrow, not even in my dreams.