I would not exchange the sorrows of my heart for the jubilees of the masses, nor would I grant that the tears that flow from my parts, engulfed in gloom, be turned into burgeoning laughter. I would but for my life to remain a tear and a smile: a tear that would purify my heart and make me to understand life's hidden meanings and ambiguities, and a smile that brings me nearer to my kin and becomes my symbol for the worship of the gods; a tear with which to join the crushed of heart in solidarity, and a smile that becomes a visible token of my joy in existence.
Sooner would I perish of longing than live in dullness! Would that the depths of my soul be consumed by an eternal, unappeasable appetite for love and beauty. For I have looked all around and seen that those who are satisfied are the most wretched of all people, and are enslaved by their own earthiness. I have heard the burning sighs of unrequited love and I have found them sweeter than love satisfied.
As evening approaches, the rose folds its petals and sleeps in the embrace of her yearnings. But with the approach of the morn, she parts her lips to receive the kiss of the sun. For the life of a flower is a longing and a fulfillment, a tear and a smile.
The sea's waters become vapor and rise, gathering into a cloud. The cloud floats above the hills and the valleys until it meets a gentle breeze and then it falls, weeping towards the fields. Only then does it join the running streams and return to the sea, its home and origin. The life of a cloud is a separation and a union, a tear and a smile.
And so is it for the spirit. The individual spirit becomes separated from the greater spirit and sojourns in the world of matter, a wandering cloud over the mountains of sorrow and the plains of joy, until it meets the subtle breeze of death. The spirit thus sojourns until it returns to its origin; to the Greater Sea of Love and Beauty; to God!
~ Kahlil Gibran; from A Tear and a Smile, 1914.
Photograph: Denis Roussel