From the Selfsame Well

Then a woman said, Speak to us of Joy
and Sorrow.

And he answered:

Your joy is your sorrow unmasked.

And the selfsame well from which your
laughter rises was oftentimes filled with your
tears. 
And how else can it be?  The deeper that sorrow carves into your being, the more joy you can contain.

Is not the cup that holds your wine the very
cup that was burned in the potter’s oven?
And is not the lute that soothes your
spirit, the very wood that was hollowed
with knives?

When you are joyous, look deep into
your heart and you shall find it is only that
which has given you sorrow that is giving
you joy.

When you are sorrowful look again in
your heart, and you shall see that in truth
you are weeping for that which has been
your delight.

Some of you say, “Joy is greater than
sorrow,” and others say, “Nay, sorrow is
the greater.”

But I say unto you, they are inseparable.

Together they come, and when one sits
alone with you at your board, remember
that the other is asleep upon your bed.

[Excerpt from “The Prophet”, by Kahlil Gibran] pgs. 29-30

8 thoughts on “From the Selfsame Well

  1. Ah, those passionate Maronites. “The Prophet” is the one late library book I didn’t look too hard to find in the house, back in my 20s. Shortly after I “bought” it from them, I found it again.

    I suppose he’s right. But we all, as children, start out with one thing in our hollows — joy. Perhaps that’s why I am never too troubled by Alzheimer’s residents. Perhaps they are re-filling with joy alone, having no recall of where they placed sorrow.

  2. The reason Caryll Houselander chose the Reed of God as a title for a book about Mary is similar to that described here when referring to the lute.
    When we are joyful we know we will be sorrowful again and when we are sorrowful we know too that joy will come. Most children because of their carefree nature inspire and bring joy to us adults – yet we know too of all the sorrows out there which will eventually envelop them from time to time – all the more reason to afford them all the joy, all the happiness, all the earthly riches – as in nature walks, days by the sea – that we possibly can. They are God’s little ones after all and we all know how much he loves them.
    I’ll have to google this book Gabrielle and the writer and get some background information.

  3. “Is not the cup that holds your wine the very cup that was burned in the potter’s oven?”

    That is such a tactile vision of growth and maturity. You can FEEL the words! The constant casting and firing of our life, so that we will become that ultimate gift to our creator! Really beautiful! I have not read this book since I was much younger. Will try to find it in amongst the books on the shelf.

  4. He is one of my favorites. Jesus, Son of Man is one of the most beautiful books I’ve ever read. And of course, the Prophet. He is just as beautiful to read in English as in Italian for me, though maybe italian lends itself better, just as perhaps French would. Memorable are his words from The Prophet regarding children:

    Your children are not your children.
    They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself.
    They 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 sees the mark upon the path of the infinite,
    and He bends you with His might
    that His arrows may go swift and far.
    Let our 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.

  5. I think we’ve all reached a stage in our life experience where we know the truth of what he says, but it’s so easy to forget when we’re in the midst of things, isn’t it. We really do have to look deep within our hearts during the times of both joy and sorrow in order to bring ourselves back to the truth, don’t we. I thought of The Reed of God too when I reached those lines about the lute! And Pia, as I was looking through The Prophet yesterday, I came across the poem you’ve quoted here, and I said to myself, gee, that sounds familiar…then I remembered that I had actually blogged it myself (Nov 06). Sheesh! Hope you all have a lovely weekend!

  6. “Speak to us of love” is pretty powerful, as is his “Song of the Wave.” I like all his heart, but it is one I purposely avoid, lest I start whining aloud.

  7. I guess we’ve all realized by now that as lay contemplatives there is no use whining aloud in the midst of non-contemplatives because it is completely unproductive; and so the Spirit gives us the groaning within…drawing us closer but keeping it hidden…

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