I have been reading quite a bit of the works of one of my favorite authors lately, Kahlil Gibran. Most people in the United States, if they are familiar with him at all, know him as the author of his most well known work, “The Prophet”. Most people that I talk to are not familiar even with this work, and it is to their detriment. “The Prophet” was the first ever book that I read of Gibran's, and I will admit to hesitating, because I believed it was a religious work. It likely can be considered more “spiritual than religious”. I don't want to use cliches here, but in this case, I think that can safely be said to apply, because Gibran was spiritual in a non-denominational” manner, never advocating one particular religion over another.
He has been more influential, even far more influential, than most people give him credit for. In fact, for someone who remains largely anonymous, this is a man who's influence reached surprisingly far.
Don't believe me? Well, check out some of John Lennon's lyrics, specifically in the White Album. In Julia, he uses the words “half of what I say is meaningless”. That was borrowed from Gibran. He is also referenced in songs by Jason Mraz, Van Morrison and David Bowie, and the famous eighties hit, “Broken Wings” was influneced in large part by Gibran's “Broken Wings”, a work written more than half a century before. He is also quoted or referenced in shows such as in “Criminal Minds”, “The Wonder Years”, “South Central”, “Bones”, and “Wingman”. “The Prophet” is featured in a Johnny Cash movie. Jodi Picoult quotes him in one of her books.
Nor was his influence restricted to merely pop culture icons of the present day. Decades before Kennedy and his campaign of a “New Frontier” would be elected, Gibran published a work entitled “The New Frontier”, which Kennedy borrowed from in his very famous words from the Inaugural speech, “Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.” More iconic words from any American politician in the last half century can hardly be conjured up. Yet, Gibran remains mostly anonymous, and receives little to no credit for much of what hew managed to influence. Here is the original quote below.
"Are you a politician asking what your country can do for you or a zealous one asking what you can do for your country? If you are the first, then you are a parasite; if the second, then you are an oasis in a desert."
Can you see the resemblance to Kennedy's speech, which was obviously far more glittering and glorified?
So yes, he is fairly well known, and was quite influential, and remains so even to this day, because his work still is highly relevant in the present age. There is a timeless quality to his words and to his thoughts that lend them some measure of an eternal, immortal quality to them. If you allow them to, they will speak to you.
Yet, it is important to understand that the power of Gibran's work cannot be traced by those he influenced, as much as by picking up one of his books and reading it. “The Prophet”, his most widely known and most easily accessible book in English can be read in one sitting. If you have a couple of hours, and are willing to put the book down every now and then to contemplate the meanings of the words, then it is well worth it!