The Madman

When was the last time you picked up a book and knew you’d made an excellent choice after reading the very first page?
“You ask me how I became a madman.  It happened thus:  One day, long before many gods were born, I woke from a deep sleep and found all my masks were stolen, — the seven masks I have fashioned and worn in seven lives, — I ran maskless through the crowded streets shouting, “Thieves, thieves, the cursed thieves.”
Men and women laughed at me and some ran to their houses in fear of me.
And when I reached the market place, a youth standing on a house-top cried, “He is a madman.”  I looked up to behold him; the sun kissed my own naked face for the first time.  For the first time the sun kissed my own naked face and my soul was inflamed with love for the sun, and I wanted my masks no more.  And as if in a trance I cried, “Blessed, blessed are the thieves who stole my masks.”
Thus I became a madman.
And I have found both freedom and safety in my madness; the freedom of loneliness and the safety from being understood, for those who udnerstand us enslave something in us.
But let me not be too proud of my safety.  Even a Thief in a jail is safe from another thief.”
–First page of The Madman, His Parables and Poems by Kahlil Gibran

4 Responses

  1. Wow, “the safety from being understood.” I love that.

    It’s a weird statement. On the one hand, I think we all yearn to be understood; but on the other hand, I think he’s right about people who understand us capture a part of us, label it, and bottle it for view in a way that maybe IS a little bit limiting…

  2. I haven’t actually read all of The Prophet, which I own, because every time I sit down to read it, I get too amazed to continue. Gibran was divine.

    This is actually the Collected Works of Gibran; Madman is just first in the order. I’d seen snippets of his poetry, mostly from The Prophet, in various places before and was always floored by its penetrative beauty. So I put it on my mental list quite a while ago, and on my ACTUAL “to read” list not long ago. This just seemed like a good time, and as a university employee I can check out books for a LONG ASS TIME, so why not pick it up and read whenever I feel like it?

  3. I own The Prophet, too. It’s lovely to read aloud to the one you love. A friend of mine actually used one of the passages for her wedding vows. Gibran makes me feel… humble, I guess is the word.

    “Humble” is the PERFECT word, because…whoa!

    I can definitely see using parts of it as wedding vows.

  4. okay, i *have* to buy this book now. or find an angry garden gnome to steal it from borders for me.

    I would normally say “Don’t they have libraries where you live?” But yeah, this is a book I could see adding to my already-ridiculous pile of books. I will reiterate though: Collected Works! Yay!

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