Chapter 43: Don’t Judge the Ocean by Its Foam
The mist that drifts away at dawn, leaving but dew in the fields, shall rise and gather into a cloud and then fall down in rain.
And not unlike the mist have I been.
In the stillness of the night I have walked in your streets, and my spirit has entered your houses,
And your heartbeats were in my heart, and your breath was upon my face, and I knew you all.
Ay, I knew your joy and your pain, and in your sleep your dreams were my dreams.
And oftentimes I was among you a lake among the mountains.
I mirrored the summits in you and the bending slopes, and even the passing flocks of your thoughts and your desires.
And to my silence came the laughter of your children in streams, and the longing of your youths in rivers.
And when they reached my depth the streams and the rivers ceased not yet to sing.
But sweeter still than laughter and greater than longing came to me.
It was the boundless in you;
The vast man in whom you are all but cells and sinews;
He in whose chant all your singing is but a soundless throbbing.
It is in the vast man that you are vast,
And in beholding him that I beheld you and loved you.
For what distances can love reach that are not in that vast sphere?
What visions, what expectations and what presumptions can outsoar that flight?
Like a giant oak tree covered with apple blossoms is the vast man in you.
His might binds you to the earth, his fragrance lifts you into space, and in his durability you are deathless.
You have been told that, even like a chain, you are as weak as your weakest link.
That is but half the truth. You are also as strong as your strongest link.
To measure you by your smallest deed is to reckon the power of ocean by the frailty of its foam.
To judge you by your failures is to cast blame upon the seasons for their inconstancy.
Ay, you are like an ocean.
And though heavy-grounded ships await the tide upon your shores, yet, even like an ocean, you cannot hasten your tides.
And like the seasons you are also,
And though in your winter you deny your spring,
Yet spring, reposing within you, smiles in her drowsiness and is not offended.
Think not I say these things in order that you may say one to the other, “He praised us well. He saw but the good in us.”
I only speak to you in words of that which you yourselves know in thought.
And what is word knowledge but a shadow of wordless knowledge?
Your thoughts and my words are waves from a sealed memory that keeps records of our yesterdays,
And of the ancient days when the earth knew not us nor herself,
And of nights when earth was upwrought with confusion.
Almustafa, before parting from his people, makes many significant statements. It is almost as if a man is dying and his last words contain his whole life’s experience. He has not much time, but still time enough to say a few words which will be remembered with the sadness and with the glory and the beauty of his departure.
It is not a death; he is going back home. But he has to say a few things which were not possible to say before - not that he was not prepared, but there was nobody to listen to him. Hearing that he is going, the whole city of Orphalese has gathered.
The words that are spoken at the time of departure become seeds in your being, almost without your knowing, because you cannot go on playing games of postponement. The ship is ready to leave, the people may never see Almustafa again - who knows about the future, what it contains? This man has been amongst them for twelve years; they have ignored him, laughed at him, neglected him. Deep down they are feeling sad and sorry because they had an opportunity, a spring that had come to them, but they were not open.
Today, because the spring is going away, they have become suddenly aware. And remember, even when the spring goes away, it does not go suddenly. It lingers a little bit. A few flowers disappear, then a few more flowers disappear, and then all the flowers are gone. Those who were not aware when there were flowers all around, also become aware that perhaps it may not be possible to see the same flowers and the same fragrance again. In this awareness their hearts are open.