My Birthday by Kahlil Gibran

On this day my mother bore me.

On this day  five and twenty years ago the silence put me between the hands of this existence, full with cries and battle and contending.

Thus I have walked round the sun twenty and five times. And I know not how many times the moon has encircled me. Yet I have not unveiled the secrets of life neither I have known the hidden things of darkness.

I have walked five and twenty times with the earth and the moon and the sun and the planets around the Universal law.

Behold now my spirit murmuring the names of that Law like caves echoing the voice of sea waves. Its being is in His being, but knows not His essence; it sings the songs of His ebb and flow, but comprehends Him not.

Twenty and five years ago the hand of time wrote me as a word in this book of this strange terrifying world. Behold me, then, a word vague and confused of meaning; now signifying no thing; now meaning many things.

On this day of the year thoughts and reflections and remembrance jostle one the other in my soul. They stand before me as processions of days gone by and show me phantoms of nights long departed. Then they are dispersed as the winds disperse straying clouds at twilight. They dwindle and become faint in the corners of my room like the songs streams in far-off and empty valleys.

On this day every year comes the spirits that have molded my spirit, hastening toward me from all corners of the earth, encircling me with songs of sad remembrance.

Then gently they withdraw and hide behind visible things. They are like birds that descend upon an abandoned threshing-floor and, finding there no grain, flutter awhile ere flying off to another place.

On this day the meaning of my past life rises up before me as a faded mirror into which I look long and see therein naught, except the pallid faces of years like the faces of the dead; and the wrinkled figures of hopes and dreams and passions like the features of old men.

Then I close my eyes and look a second time in the mirror and I see naught but my face;

And I look into my face and behold therein sadness. I examine this sadness and find it dumb and giving not utterance. Yet could this sadness speak, it were sweeter than joy.

Much have I loved in these five and twenty years. And much that I have loved is hateful to people; and much that I have hatred is by them admired. What I have loved as a boy I cease now to love. And that which I now love I shall love to the end of my days. For love is the all I can attain, and no person shall deprive me thereof.

Many of the times I have loved death and called it by sweet names and wooed it in secret and public places. Life also have I loved. For death and life are to me in beauty, and equal in delight, and partners in the growth of my longing and yearning. They have shared alike my love and affection.

I have loved freedom, and my love has grown with the growth of my knowledge of the bondage of people to falsehood and deceit. And it has spread with my understanding of their submission to idols created by dark ages and raised up by folly and polished by the touch of adoring lips.

But I have loved also those adorers with my unfettered love. Yea, I have had pity on them, for they are blind and kiss the bloody lips of a wild beast and see not; suck up the venom of the viper and feel not. They dig their own graves with their fingernails and know not.

I have loved freedom because I have found it to be a maiden whom aloness has made sickly and solitude rendered weak until she is become a phantom passing among houses, standing in streets and calling on the passerby, who hears not nor heeds her.

In five and twenty years have I loved happiness as have all men. I have awakened each morning and sought it even as they have sought. But I have found it not in their ways, neither have I seen its footprints on the sand outside their mansions; nor have I heard echo of its voice coming from within their temples.

But when I sought it in solitude, I heard my spirit thus whisper in my ear, saying: “Happiness is a child born and brought to life in the heart’s depths; it comes not to it from without.”

And when I opened my heart to see happiness, I found therein its mirror and its couch and garments. It I did not find.

I have loved all people – much have I loved them. In my sight people are of three kinds. One curses life; one blessed it; one observes it. I have loved the first for his despair; and the second for his tolerance; the third for his understanding.

Thus have passed twenty and five years. So have gone my days and my nights, hastening on, one on the heels of another; falling from my life as leaves from the tree in the path of autumn winds.

And today, today I stand in remembrance as a tired wayfarer who stands midway on the ascending road, and I look on this side and that and see not in the past of my life anything to which I can point before the sun and say; This is to me.

Neither do I find in the seasons of my years any harvest save leaves tinted with drops of ink, and strange scattered tracings full with line and color, harmonious and discordant.

In these dispersed pages and drawings I have buried and interred my feelings and my thoughts and dreams as does the husbandman seeds in the earth.

But the peasant who goes out to the field and sows his seeds in the soil returns with hope to this house at eventide and awaits the season of harvesting and gathering. Not so I. For I have cast forth seeds of my heart and there is no hope, neither is there awaiting.

And now that I am come to this stage of my journey and see that past from beyond a mist of sighing and grieving, and the future from behind the veil of the past, I stand and gaze on existence from my window.

I behold the faces of people and hear their voices rising upwards. I hear the fall of their footsteps among the dwellings and feel the touch of their spirits and the waves of their desires and the beating of their hearts.

I see children at play running and jumping and throwing bits of soil at one another, the while laughing with glee.

And the young men I see walking with firm step, their heads held high as though they would read a poem of youth writ on the margin of clouds lined with sun rays. And the maiden who walk and sway like young boughs and smile like flowers, the while they gaze upon the young men from under lids that flutter with love and desire.

I see old men walking slowly with their bent backs, leaning on sticks and looking on the ground, as though seeking between the cracks precious stones they have lost.

So do I stand at my window and look and ponder on these images and shadows in their silent progress through the streets and byways of the city.

Then I look to that which is beyond the city and see the wild parts in their awful beauty and voiced silence, and rising hills and sloping valleys. The erect trees and gently swaying grass and fragrant flowers; the chanting rivers and singing birds.

I look to that which is beyond the wild places and I behold the sea and the wonders and marvels of its depths, its secrets and buried things. Its foaming waves in their anger and scorn; its spume and spray; its rise and its fall. All this do I see.

And I look then to that which is beyond the sea, and I perceive the limitless firmament with its worlds floating in space, and the brilliant stars and the suns and the moons. And all the planets and fixed stars, and all the contending and reconciled forces of attraction and repulsion do I see, created and borne by that Will, timeless and without limit. Submitting to a Universal law whose beginning has no beginning and whose end is without end.

Through my window I look and ponder on these things and I am forgetful of the five and twenty years and the ages that preceded them and the centuries that will follow. And my being and my existence are manifest before me, the concealed and the revealed, as the ghost of a child’s sigh trembling in the eternal depths of space and its everlasting heights and endless boundaries. And I feel existence of this ghost, this spirit, this essence, this self I call “I”. I fell its stirrings and hear its clamor. Now does it lift its wings upwards and stretch forth its hands in all directions, and sway trembling on this day which showed it to existence. Now in a voice from its holy of holies does it cry:

“Peace, O Life. Peace, O awakening. Peace, O vision”

“Greeting, O day, whose light conquers earth’s darkness. Greeting, O night, whose darkness reveals the light of the firmament.”

“Greeting to spring, which renews the earth’s youth; to summer, which proclaim the sun’s splendor. Greeting to autumn, the giver of labor’s fruits and toil’s reward; to winter, which brings back in its tempest nature’s strength.”

“To the years which reveal that which the years have hidden. To the ages which have redressed the wrongs of ages: Greeting.”

“Peace, O time, who carry us onward to perfection. And peace to you, guiding spirit, who are the reigns of existence; who are hidden from us behind the sun’s veil.”

“Peace and greeting to you, O heart, because you meditate whilst yet overcome with weeping.”

“And to you, O lips, greeting and peace, for verily do you speak peace whilst yet tasting of bitterness.”

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