"On Children" by Kahlil Gibran

Poetry Reviews Deep Truths

I’ve fallen out of the habit of reading books. I spend more time engaging in online conversations, a strategy to cope with this of physical isolation.

Wanting to get back into reading, I chose to read Kahlil Gibran’s The Prophet.

, I read the following and broke down.

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 your 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.
, The Prophet (On Children)

In the above poem I marked the part that struck deep into my being. Beautiful and painful; a reminder that in their birth began my death.

This poem contains the reminder of what the has jeopardized and strained.

My children, the youngest 19, no longer live with me. I no longer drive them to band practice nor choir concerts. Instead I send them an occasional text; just to remind them I’m thinking of them.

I miss those car rides where we would talk. I learned about their world. And these days, it’s far harder to learn about those worlds.

Gibran’s poem hits hard because I see an unwelcome, yet known, truth.

, I saw all of my children together for a combined hour or two. We sat outside for my birthday and talked.

What is this hideous cost? To heed the sirens’s call of independence, conflating autonomy with separation. Who or what are the sirens?

, I heard a few utterances of work family, and seethe at that rhetorical framing. The phrase work family invades our home of mental symbols, a changeling seeking to supplant our personal understanding family.

I know I spend tremendous emotional capital navigating my workplace; I cannot be alone. But, I have let that expenditure be an excuse for maintaining distance elsewhere.

A friend of mine would likely name the problem alienation; and they are right. The root, they would tell me, is colonization. And I’m seeing that, but cannot yet put words to how I see it.

I feel the poem piercing to the heart of my alienation; my separation from a sustaining life. I’m the one that secures the benefits, but they are what ensnare me. Those benefits include significant support for college tuition.

I tell myself that I’m doing this for my children, but to what end? To better equip them to seek their own disintegration?

I hope alienation is not the house of tomorrow in which my children dwell. If it is, I’m saddened by the foundation I have laid.

I think I’ll shoot each of them a text and see about hopping on a Zoom call sometime this weekend.