Common Place Book #9

“Then said the rich man, Speak to us of Giving.”

The Prophet – Kahlil Gibran

For anyone who is intellectually curious and would like to read about an easily lovable outlook on life, I highly suggest The Prophet, by Kahlil Gibran. It is both thought provoking and a very easy read. In The Prophet, a prophet details the way the people of a certain town should live their lives. Through the prophet, Gibran essentially provides the reader with his philosophical and moral out look on life. Each section is began by a person, usually affiliated with what ever topic is asked about, saying “speak to us of (insert deep important aspect of life).” This instance, as you can see, the prophet is going to speak to them of giving.

The brilliance behind this line is who is asking the prophet to speak. It is the rich man, both the man who is most likely expected to give the most in that town, and the man who is stereotypically the worst at giving, as many people view the rich as greedy and exploiters. In addition, Gibran highlights the selfless aspect too giving. Had it been a poor person asking the question, giving could be looked at as those that do not have wanting what others do have out of jealousy. Gibran sets up the expectation of giving money to the poor by having the rich man ask the question. Through this line, Gibran sets up what he writes next, “you give but little when you give of your possessions. It is when you give of yourself that you truly give.” Gibran makes it known that a rich person simply donating a lot money to a charity is not a true, acceptable way of getting. In many respects, it is phony (especially today when charity donations are essentially tax write offs). It is the meaning behind the giving that is important and matters. By using the rich man to ask the prophet to speak of giving, Gibran directs the response at the rich man. He makes it known that even the rich man needed to sacrifice with his giving and put effort with his giving despite the overabundance that the rich man has to give.

In my opinion, this first line in quite brilliant. Gibran is able to present so much in so few words, perfectly setting up everything he is going to detail in the ensuing section.

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