Friday, July 21, 2006

O Lebanon!

This post is dedicated to all the innocents dying and harmed in Lebanon at this time, the victims of Israeli aggression. An entire country should not be shelled for the actions of one group, Hezbollah.

Khalil Gibran
, author of the Prophet, is without doubt the most famous of all Lebanese writers. Born in the 1883, he grew up in a poor household. When his father was imprisoned for fraud, his mother raised the children. When his father was released from of prison, she decided to emigrate to the U.S.

Gibran's father didn't want to go, so she took the kids and went by herslf. What an independent soul she must have been.

She made her living as a peddler. In Lebanon, Khalil had no education and could not read or write. In the States, he went to school and became known for his fiery essays and art.

At the end of World War I, the Treaty of Versailles partitioned the old Ottoman Empire, and placed Lebanon and Syria under the protectorate of France. After Syria and Lebanon achieved independence in 1943, both countries gradually came to accept their roles as separate national identities: Syria as the heart of pan-Arab nationalism and Lebanon as independent and sovereign but within the Arab world.

Three generations ago, Kahlil Gibran wrote a simple verse with the repeating line "you have your Lebanon, I have mine." In it, Gibran chided the politicians of his day who defined Lebanon by their intrigue and their vain boastings. To Gibran the real Lebanon was its prophets and poets, its beauty and the vitality of its daily life. He died in 1931 without seeing his homeland gain its freedom.

It is still a good read.

You Have Your Lebanon and I Have My Lebanon
(written after the first World War, in the 1920's)

You have your Lebanon and its dilemma. I have my Lebanon and its beauty. Your Lebanon is an arena for men from the West and men from the East.

My Lebanon is a flock of birds fluttering in the early morning as shepherds lead their sheep into the meadow and rising in the evening as farmers return from their fields and vineyards.

You have your Lebanon and its people. I have my Lebanon and its people.

Yours are those whose souls were born in the hospitals of the West; they are as ship without rudder or sail upon a raging sea.... They are strong and eloquent among themselves but weak and dumb among Europeans.

They are brave, the liberators and the reformers, but only in their own area. But they are cowards, always led backwards by the Europeans. They are those who croak like frogs boasting that they have rid themselves of their ancient, tyrannical enemy, but the truth of the matter is that this tyrannical enemy still hides within their own souls. They are the slaves for whom time had exchanged rusty chains for shiny ones so that they thought themselves free. (I love this line-Glenda) These are the children of your Lebanon. Is there anyone among them who represents the strength of the towering rocks of Lebanon, the purity of its water or the fragrance of its air? Who among them vouchsafes to say, "When I die I leave my country little better than when I was born"?

Who among them dare to say, "My life was a drop of blood in the veins of Lebanon, a tear in her eyes or a smile upon her lips"?

Those are the children of your Lebanon. They are, in your estimation, great; but insignificant in my estimation.

Let me tell you who are the children of my Lebanon.

They are farmers who would turn the fallow field into garden and grove.

They are the shepherds who lead their flocks through the valleys to be fattened for your table meat and your woolens.

They are the vine-pressers who press the grape to wine and boil it to syrup.

They are the parents who tend the nurseries, the mothers who spin the silken yarn.

They are the husbands who harvest the wheat and the wives who gather the sheaves.

They are the builders, the potters, the weavers and the bell-casters.

They are the poets who pour their souls in new cups.

They are those who migrate with nothing but courage in their hearts and strength in their arms but who return with wealth in their hands and a wreath of glory upon their heads.

They are the victorious wherever they go and loved and respected wherever they settle.

They are the ones born in huts but who died in palaces of learning.

These are the children of Lebanon; they are the lamps that cannot be snuffed by the wind and the salt which remains unspoiled through the ages.

They are the ones who are steadily moving toward perfection, beauty, and truth.

What will remain of your Lebanon after a century? Tell me! Except bragging, lying and stupidity? Do you expect the ages to keep in its memory the traces of deceit and cheating and hypocrisy? Do you think the atmosphere will preserve in its pockets the shadows of death and the stench of graves?

Do you believe life will accept a patched garment for a dress? Verily, I say to you that an olive plant in the hills of Lebanon will outlast all of your deeds and your works; that the wooden plow pulled by the oxen in the crannies of Lebanon is nobler than your dreams and aspirations.

I say to you, while the conscience of time listened to me, that the songs of a maiden collecting herbs in the valleys of Lebanon will outlast all the uttering of the most exalted prattler among you. I say to you that you are achieving nothing. If you knew that you are accomplishing nothing, I would feel sorry for you, but you know it not.

You have your Lebanon and I have my Lebanon.


At 5:33 AM, Blogger Anita said...

Hi Glenda,
Beautiful post! Good choice of text!
It's, sad, though, that Lebannon has been throughout History a turbulent place for its inhabitants. PEACE!


At 5:39 AM, Blogger glenda said...

Yes, anita, you are right.

At 7:10 AM, Blogger DivaJood said...

You have your Israel, I have mine. And Iraq. And Persia (which we refer to as Iran). And Syria. The Middle East is beautiful. I've been to the mouth of the Jordan River, in Banyas. I've been to oasis, and to Wadis in the Sinai Peninsula.

I don't understand how people who are filled with hatred and self-justified reasons for war wind up in positions of power and decision-making when the bulk of their people would rather live in peace.

At 7:15 AM, Blogger bluegrrrrl said...

Yes, Diva--and when the bulk of the people are simply trying to live their lives. We forget that when we wage war. The vast majority of casualties will not be the leaders with whom we quarrel or the dictators whose policies we hate.

I love this excerpt, Glenda! Gibran's writing has influenced me for over 30 years.

At 8:43 AM, Blogger Mary said...

Great post Glenda! I really appreciate it. I agree w/divajood and bluegrrrl.

At 8:53 AM, Blogger The Fat Lady Sings said...

I had forgotten Gibran was Lebanese. As with all of my generation - I have read his works - and been profoundly moved by them. Such a wonderful, romantic man. Marvelous post, Glenda. Just marvelous. It brings home just how much is being lost through all of this. Thank you.

At 8:55 AM, Anonymous Adorable Girlfriend said...

Thank you for such a wonderful post that inspires me to do better for myself and the others in the world. I pray for peace and resolution soon.

At 9:27 AM, Blogger celticfire said...

Informative post. Didn't know about this.

At 9:34 AM, Blogger WeezieLou said...

i've also been inspired by Gibran most of my literary life. beautiful post, glenda.

At 9:37 AM, Blogger glenda said...

Thank you all. Gibran was a wonderful writer whom I hae been reading most of my life.

My family is a very diverse one, with members are native Iranian, Jewish, South American, and of European extraction. My mother was a translator who spoke 5 languages, and most of her friends spoke English as a second language. She went on to work for a nonprofit which helped to settle refugees, so I never knew who I might meet when I came home.

Diversity enriches us all. We must work for an end to this conflict and to all those conflicts around the world.

For those of you who have not joined, please come and contribute your thoughts to this small but growing discussion communtiy.

We need to figure out how to work better together so that all of us individuals from all countries can band together.

I do not think the Iraqi people want war, I do not think the Israeli people want war, I do not think the Palestinian people want war, nor the Syrians, nor the Lebanese, and so on....and on.....

At 10:19 AM, Blogger DA said...

Great tribute to Gibran if only the reason for doing it wasn't so darn sad. So sad..

At 12:33 PM, Blogger dusty said...

I thought of Gibran when this whole ball of shit started..excuse my language,but I am sick of death and destruction in the name of God/Jesus.

Beautiful post Glenda..I heart you for it.

At 1:02 PM, Blogger thepoetryman said...

Absolutely lovely, glenda!

Gibran is one of the most influential writers of his time, of ours, and well into the shadowy time of the future.

His masterpiece is and wwill always remain The Prophet. If some of your readers have not read The Prophet, might I suggest they buy it and keep it under their pillow at night (after they've read it, of course.)!

At 5:00 PM, Anonymous Pekka said...

To take it to an extreme simplicity; shouldn't wars be fought by those individuals who have the power to declear them. Maybe, if this was the practise there would be more negotiated solutions, instead of this situation in which 99% of causualties of war are civilians?

These negotiations should be held in isolation and depravation. Ordinary people would lock their leaders up in Spartan existence and let them out again only with the comprehensible peace plan. If they would fail to do so - they would die of hunger, thirst, disease, and rest of those fun things that their populations used to go through during wars.

Simplistic and childlish, yes, but at least there would be no collateral damage and the Grim Reaper would do precision picking for change.

At 5:09 PM, Blogger Peacechick Mary said...

I too love Gibran's writings. Obviously the Hezbollah folks are not aware of it. Perhaps we should take up a collection and send a copy their way. Great post, Glenda.

At 8:21 PM, Blogger Renegade Eye said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

At 8:22 PM, Blogger Renegade Eye said...

A great post.

Gibran is read at Unitarian weddings all the time.

Great work. Thank you.

At 8:24 PM, Blogger Renegade Eye said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

At 9:05 PM, Blogger glenda said...

thanks, all. great to see all of you!!

pekka, Great idea!

At 11:14 PM, Blogger Sothis said...

Gibran is one of my favorites, too. I thought of him when the bombing begun. He must be weeping wherever he is now.

At 12:32 AM, Blogger sumo said...

A gentle and sweet soul of a man. I sometimes wonder how a man is capable of such beauty...what happens to him to cause him to follow the path of his words that mean so much to others. I think people are just born to do what is in their heart...and for him it was the extraordinary language of love and simplicity.

At 1:34 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Beautiful post, Glenda. But humans are nuts, so...

At 3:11 AM, Blogger a rose is a rose said...

you know dear ms glenda, i read and re read and re read again 'the prophet' while i was quite a bit younger.

i never knew mr gibran's heritage and background. thank you for telling me (well, us).

At 5:13 AM, Blogger Tabor said...

Thanks, Glenda, for bringing this back into my mind. I didn't know much about Gibran. How many Gibrans' have been silenced over these weeks?

At 5:16 AM, Blogger WeezieLou said...

(does anyone else wonder what it is exactly the posts that are deleted by the author said in the first place? ah well, i explore the cracks in the sidewalks far more than the sidewalk - not recommeding that to anyone).

At 6:35 AM, Blogger glenda said...

I read your comments and get chills as the truth of your words hit me....
hmm. weezielou, sometimes I guess people just change their minds...dunno why!

At 10:11 AM, Blogger Changeseeker said...

You inspired me again, Glenda. Thanks. It felt good to publically acknowledge my sorrow about what's going on. Here's my response.

At 11:11 AM, Blogger enigma4ever said...

Thank you so much for bring up this beautiful man and his story and his works...I do not understand why people are so lacking in compassion and wisdom about what is happening there...namaste...

At 4:58 PM, Blogger Rory Shock said...

glenda my family has jewish blood and lebanese blood flowing in its veins ... my heart is in my mouth over this situation ... the lebanese blood is in the most danger right now ... some survived the last hell in beirut ... sweet, loving intelligent peaceful people in the business of making life better for other humans, beautiful children inerested in childhood things, full of love for their parents and grandparents, uncles ... will they ever see some of them again? last summer able to visit ... this summer ... every child murdered by the israelis had a face, a smile for his or her grandma or grandpa, mom or dad, a life ... do I have a "double standard" ... maybe I do ... the strongest, those who claim to be progressive and democratic, have an obligation not to kill innocent children, innocent people period ... killing 100 children for every possible handful of militants out there ... beyond depraved ... beyond twisted ... beyond any justification ... oh yes, the israelis are proving that they can lay waste to far more innocent life then hezbollah ... we get the fucking point you goddamned nazi's with the blue star armbands ... now fucking stop it

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