We are always saying farewell in this world, always standing at the edge of loss, attempting to retrieve some human meaning from the silence. Something that was precious is gone.
There is a limit to human suffering. When one thinks, “Now I have touched the bottom of the sea; now I can go no deeper,” one goes deeper.
But suffering can be overcome. What must one do? One must submit. Do not resist; take it; be overwhelmed. Accept it fully. Let it be the part of your life that it already is. Everything in life that we really accept undergoes a change.
Your joy is your sorrow unmasked. And the selfsame well from which your laughter rises was oftentimes filled with your tears. When you are sorrowful look into your heart and you shall see that you are weeping for that which has been your delight.
The deeper that sorrow carves into your being, the more joy you can contain. Is not the flute that soothes your spirit, the very wood that was hollowed with knives? Is not the cup that holds your wine the very cup that was burned in the potter’s oven?
Your pain is the breaking of the shell that encloses your understanding. Even as the seed of the fruit must break that its heart may stand in the sun, so must you know pain.
And could you keep your heart in wonder at the daily miracles of your life, your pain would not seem less wondrous than your joy; and you would accept the seasons of your heart even as you have always accepted the seasons that pass over your fields and you would watch with serenity through the winters of your grief.
What an absurd conception of the world and of life it is that causes us much of our misery. Out of over-attachment to the past we refuse to understand that tomorrow’s happiness is only possible if today’s makes room for it; that every wave owes the beauty of its curve to the retreat of the one that precedes it. Every flower must fade in order to bear its fruit and unless the fruit falls and dies it cannot produce future flowerings; so Spring itself is founded upon Winter’s loss.
Loss and tragedy make some stronger, some weaker; some it hardens; others it mellows; some it shuts off from life; others it opens.
Loss and tragedy have no ordained purpose. They are simply the product of life in the natural world. And yet, we make and are made by our meanings: Our sorrows raise us from small circles of being, to concerns as wide as each other and the universe.
Some say, “Joy is greater than sorrow” and others say, “No, sorrow is greater.” In truth, they are inseparable. When one sits alone with you at your bench, know that the other is asleep upon your bed.
Be patient toward all that is unresolved in your heart and try to live the questions themselves. Do not gather and fill yourself with green-apple answers before they are red-ripened in season.
And the point is to live everything, especially including the question. Assuredly you will gradually, without noticing it, live along some distant day into an answer.
Redacted from Tears and Laughter and The Prophet by Kahlil Gibran, an Arab mystic who lived his life in Lebanon from 1883 to 1931.