This week’s choice reflects the relationship between parents and their children and is chosen for my step-sons David and Tom, and also for my young nephews Harry and Matthew.
You are the bows from which your children as living arrows are sent forth.Kahlil Gibran (1883—1931)
Poem 273. The Prophet Speaks of Children
And a woman who held a babe against her bosom said, Speak to us of Children.
And he said:
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.
Kahlil Gibran reflects on the relationship between parents and children in this example of prose poetry.
His prophet propounds the idea that children are not just our children in the traditional sense but are an extension of Life’s natural creative urge: “They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself.” Although they are born from our bodies, they come from a larger space and are not our possessions but an expression of Life itself.
We love them but we should allow their minds to grow freely without imposing our thoughts on them. Likewise, although they live with us for a time, their souls belong to tomorrow and mustn’t be fettered to yesterday—“You may strive to be like them, but seek not to make them like you.”
He likens the parents and children to bows and arrows, the parents being the strong and stable bows that launch their children like arrows towards their destiny in the hands of God the archer, as the prophet conceives Him—“He bends you with His might that His arrows may go swift and far”. The parent must bear the bending in the Archer’s hands (I think this reflects the sum of parenthood, the good and the bad) for as the prophet says, the Archer loves a reliable bow as much as the arrows He lets fly with it.
This is a short poem, but I think it expresses very well the idea that children may derive from our own flesh and blood but they should have their own ideas and opinions untrammelled by the views of their parents. I do like the prophet’s idea of God as a mighty archer, launching each new generation of children towards their future from the trusty bows that are their parents.