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The Forgotten Quote of Khalil Gibran

The Forgotten Quote of Khalil Gibran

Somehow, a particular quote of all that Gibran said had been ignored by most of the elites who always celebrate his writings, probably because it tells a fact which they do not like to hear.

For long years, we would struggle and fight to become free, but would this battle ever end? In his famous book “The Prophet”, Khalil Gibran gave an answer to that: "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.

Pursuing freedom is exactly like climbing a ladder or a curve that starts in the early days of our life as we explore the surrounding world trying to break free from our small world as infants. Then, it passes through our striving attempts to break the constraints imposed by our parents and family. We then challenge societal norms in the near small societies such as school, and then in advanced stages, we seek to break free from all social traditions. Finally, at the peak of the curve, we break all the mandatory intellectual and religious chains that we may have inherited.

However, that would be an ideal case. In reality, most people fear the unknown and intentionally settle somewhere before reaching that peak. People choose some kind of slavery or being led because that is much easier than being a free and independent person who makes choices and then takes responsibility for the outcomes.

Most people fail to realize that it is already too late to escape that responsibility. Whether we like it or not, we will have to make choices and be responsible for them. The Muslims’ holy book, “The Holy Quran”, states that responsibility was offered to the skies, the earth, and the mountains, but they all refused to take it and feared it. However, the man did so, became responsible and had the freedom to choose.[1]

To be just a follower who will no longer make choices is by itself still a choice you make, which you are accountable for. It is true that your freedom includes having such an option as to follow someone blindly rather than to find the truth yourself, but in such a case, you should also be ready to accept the consequences of such a choice.

On the other hand, settling at that peak means chaos and spiritual death, as that would initiate an inevitable process of decadence that leads to chaos and may even result in committing suicide eventually. Radical advocates of freedom suffered all of that, as history tells us. They claimed to be the kings of freedom while actually they were just slaves of their dreams of endless freedom, which ultimately crushed them with no mercy. Paul Johnson[2] has told us many exciting stories about the sufferings of some of those in his famous book “Intellectuals”.

True freedom is to break free from freedom itself, to be free from that need to be free. The attempt to stabilize on that sharp edge at the peak of the freedom curve always results in a terrible fall. Once you become totally free at the peak, you have to develop a personal set of values and principles that you would accept to respect and restrict yourself with. A set you choose yourself, not a one that has been imposed upon you by others. Of course, it can be a pre-existing set, such as a religion or a philosophy. The key point here is that you chose it yourself, and it has not been forced upon you. At that point, wisdom begins, and there you would understand why those elites are ignoring such a fact. Simply, they are just stuck at that peak.
Their arrogance and extreme self-centeredness make them forget their duty to society, which involves educating and enlightening the unlettered and those who are less fortunate. They maintain their delusions of being superior beings, seek fame and false recognition, and become obsessed with being perceived as geniuses, intellectuals, or even as greats. They lock themselves within a small circle of fellow intellectuals and view themselves as a privileged class. Even when they try to help, they do it in arrogance and a sense of superiority. They express their thoughts without considering those who are unable to comprehend their words, and when those fail to comprehend or value their words, they would simply blame them as a lower class and refuse to acknowledge any fault on their own part! They expect everyone to say “Amen” to the verses of revelation they receive from them as elites and blindly accept their wisdom without question!

The result is that they usually end up hanging there at that peak, isolated, lonely, and speaking a language that no one understands. There, they start to hate life and society and sing the tunes of lamentation and self-pity to express their sorrows and loneliness. Eventually, they either commit suicide or adapt to living like aliens in the middle of nowhere.

They fail to realize that it is not enough to be exceptionally intelligent and perceptive, or even to possess knowledge beyond others, and that the truly genius people are the ones who managed to find their own way down towards those in the lower levels, and then hold their hands to help them in ascending step by step to be at their side over the peak. That is the greatest form of intelligence: discovering a safe route down from that high peak and figuring out the simplest way for the public to ascend and reach the peak beside you. It is to find your own voice and then inspire others to find their own, as Stephen Covey said...[3]

True greatness begins when we recognize our duty in the creation of others, rather than the individuality and selfishness, which has been preached for decades now as a master key for human happiness and salvation. The elites do not like to be reminded that true greatness tends to be a duty before being an honor, and to be a verb much more than an adjective. It is something we perform and practice… It is to do your best to make a positive contribution to the world, and to live your life according to your own moral code, taking into account the collective good of society, without deceiving yourself or compromising your own values and integrity. It is to become free and change yourself first, and then inspire others to change themselves as well, which is how you can really make a real change in the world and deserve to be called a great.

You become truly great when you use your own abilities and skills to reach the peak, and then use them again to help others, and then those individuals help even more people, who in turn would help even more people to rise, and the spiral keeps growing wider and wider.


However, let me remind you again that such a road only starts when you become free of your desire to be free, and you begin to acquire wisdom.

*** This piece was created using excerpts from my book The Fundamental Questions of Greatness. You can get your copy now and read more about this topic. 

Ammar Moussa

[1] The Holy Quran – Surat Al-Ahzab – Ayah 68 : The original Arabic source: القرآن الكريم - سورة الأحزاب – آية 68
{إِنَّا عَرَضْنَا الْأَمَانَةَ عَلَى السَّمَاوَاتِ وَالْأَرْضِ وَالْجِبَالِ فَأَبَيْنَ أَن يَحْمِلْنَهَا وَأَشْفَقْنَ مِنْهَا وَحَمَلَهَا الْإِنسَانُ إِنَّهُ كَانَ ظَلُومًا جَهُولًا}
[2] Paul Bede Johnson (1928 -2023) was an English journalist, historian, speechwriter and author.
[3] Stephen Richards Covey (1932 – 2012) was an American educator, author, businessman, and keynote speaker, in his book “The 8th Habit: From Effectiveness to Greatness
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