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90 Second Book Review: The Prophet

I am honestly starting to believe that Half Price Books is connected to some otherworldly dimension that sends books from the realm of forms into my physical reality when its time for me to read them.  The Prophet is the most recent example of this.  From what I can recall, I think I became aware of this book on an “ask me anything” Tim Ferriss podcast where he threw the reins to Naval Ravikant.  The episode posted on Jan 30, I am sure I listed a few days later, HBP did its interdimensional portal thing a few days later, reading and now this review.
There won’t be much too this particular review since this is one of those books that you just have to read to get.  Essentially its a short book of prose poetry written in an almost biblical style (think song of songs, not deuteronomy) on various topics that at one time or another are of interest to anyone thinking about the deeper meanings in life.  For example, here is the excerpt on freedom (the idea that seeking freedom can be its own shackle resonated with me deeply):

And an orator said, “Speak to us of Freedom.”

      And he answered:

      At the city gate and by your fireside I have seen you prostrate yourself and worship your own freedom,

      Even as slaves humble themselves before a tyrant and praise him though he slays them.

      Ay, in the grove of the temple and in the shadow of the citadel I have seen the freest among you wear their freedom as a yoke and a handcuff.

      And my heart bled within me; for you can only be free when even the desire of seeking freedom becomes a harness to you, and when you cease to speak of freedom as a goal and a fulfillment.

      You shall be free indeed when your days are not without a care nor your nights without a want and a grief,

      But rather when these things girdle your life and yet you rise above them naked and unbound.

      And how shall you rise beyond your days and nights unless you break the chains which you at the dawn of your understanding have fastened around your noon hour?

      In truth that which you call freedom is the strongest of these chains, though its links glitter in the sun and dazzle the eyes.

      And what is it but fragments of your own self you would discard that you may become free?

      If it is an unjust law you would abolish, that law was written with your own hand upon your own forehead.

      You cannot erase it by burning your law books nor by washing the foreheads of your judges, though you pour the sea upon them.

      And if it is a despot you would dethrone, see first that his throne erected within you is destroyed.

      For how can a tyrant rule the free and the proud, but for a tyranny in their own freedom and a shame in their won pride?

      And if it is a care you would cast off, that care has been chosen by you rather than imposed upon you.

      And if it is a fear you would dispel, the seat of that fear is in your heart and not in the hand of the feared.

      Verily all things move within your being in constant half embrace, the desired and the dreaded, the repugnant and the cherished, the pursued and that which you would escape.

      These things move within you as lights and shadows in pairs that cling.

      And when the shadow fades and is no more, the light that lingers becomes a shadow to another light.

      And thus your freedom when it loses its fetters becomes itself the fetter of a greater freedom.

And here is another one that I found interesting, although the ideas were not  new to me, about teaching:

Then said a teacher, “Speak to us of Teaching.”

      And he said:

      No man can reveal to you aught but that which already lies half asleep in the dawning of our knowledge.

      The teacher who walks in the shadow of the temple, among his followers, gives not of his wisdom but rather of his faith and his lovingness.

      If he is indeed wise he does not bid you enter the house of wisdom, but rather leads you to the threshold of your own mind.

      The astronomer may speak to you of his understanding of space, but he cannot give you his understanding.

      The musician may sing to you of the rhythm which is in all space, but he cannot give you the ear which arrests the rhythm nor the voice that echoes it.

      And he who is versed in the science of numbers can tell of the regions of weight and measure, but he cannot conduct you thither.

      For the vision of one man lends not its wings to another man.

      And even as each one of you stands alone in God’s knowledge, so must each one of you be alone in his knowledge of God and in his understanding of the earth.

And so it goes for roughly 30 or so topics.  At less than 100 pages (and available free online) just go ahead and read it already.  There will be something in there that will help you out regardless of where you find yourself.

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