The Wanderer, the Madman and the Pomegranate

It’s remarkable that so much of our culture and way of thinking can be summed up in simple analogies and metaphors. Khalil Gibran often used the perspective of plants, animals or objects to explain us to ourselves, and quite effectively. Gibran was a Lebanese-American writer who pioneered a unique variety of poetic stories. If you are unfamiliar with his work you should start out reading The Prophet, one of his most popular works, or Spirits Rebellious, a great book of metaphysical prose. By then you might find yourself hooked. I did. But I really like stuff like this.


To provide a small example of his works, I’d like to isolate one of his metaphors, the pomegranate, which appears in a couple of his books.

There was once a man who had many pomegranate trees in his orchard. And for many an autumn he would put his pomegranates on silvery trays outside of his dwelling, and upon the trays he would place signs upon which he himself had written, “Take one for aught. You are welcome.”

But people passed by and no one took of the fruit.

Then the man bethought him, and one autumn he placed no pomegranates on silvery trays outside of his dwelling, but he raised this sign in large lettering: “Here we have the best pomegranates in the land, but we sell them for more silver than any other pomegranates.”

And now behold, all the men and women of the neighborhood came rushing to buy.

-From Khalil Gibran’s The Wanderer

This excerpt from The Wanderer provides an interesting point of discussion on a troubled consumer and material ethos than is not limited to one culture, area or time. People of all places and ages have believed that real value is measured in money, and Gibran’s statement on that still applies to our culture today.

Once when I was living in the heart of a pomegranate, I heard a seed saying, “Someday I shall become a tree, and the wind will sing in my branches, and the sun will dance on my leaves, and I shall be strong and beautiful through all the seasons.”

Then another seed spoke and said, “When I was as young as you, I too held such views; but now that I can weigh and measure things, I see that my hopes were vain.”

And a third seed spoke also, “I see in us nothing that promises so great a future.”

And a fourth said, “But what a mockery our life would be, without a greater future!”

Said a fifth, “Why dispute what we shall be, when we know not even what we are.”

But a sixth replied, “Whatever we are, that we shall continue to be.”

And a seventh said, “I have such a clear idea how everything will be, but I cannot put it into words.”

Then an eighth spoke—and a ninth—and a tenth—and then many—until all were speaking, and I could distinguish nothing for the many voices.

And so I moved that very day into the heart of a quince, where the seeds are few and almost silent.

-From Khalil Gibran’s The Madman

I love this analogy on human thought. It makes me laugh. It’s about talking seeds, whose conversation sounds exactly like an actual philosophical discussion, one you might hear at a university, among “intellectuals” (I’ve had to sit through such conversations in college. They make you want to beat your head against the wall until your brain falls out). Gibran reminds us that we’re all pretentious and ignorant, without being offensive, because we have to admit that it’s true. If you’ve ever read something like The Republic, you get a glimpse of how futile and irritating philosophy can be. Gibran’s writing is philosophy that almost makes fun of philosophy, and I can appreciate that. Somewhere in the Bible it says that philosophy is vain (it probably says that in many ways, in more than one place). We really already know, we just don’t like to admit it. We’d probably be a lot smarter if we could let the bottom fall out of our preconceived notions of wisdom every now and then. Gibran reminds us that all our best reasoning amounts to nothing. Faith is where it’s at.

Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ. – Colossians 2:8


Front cover of The Wanderer, by Khalil Gibran

All original content copyright S.D. de la Rosa, 2012.


~ by Sara on December 13, 2012.

5 Responses to “The Wanderer, the Madman and the Pomegranate”

  1. […] The Wanderer, the Madman and the Pomegranate ( […]

  2. I totally agree with your observation that we be a lot smarter if we “could let the bottom fall out of our preconceived notions of wisdom every now and then”. Intelligence is much more than a collection of information; I view intelligence as defined more as a person being able and open to learning.

    • That is very true. That’s a good definition of intelligence. I just started reading Siddhartha. I might do a post about that one soon. 🙂

      • Ah, the irony! It seems that I have revealed my intelligence with a grammatical error — put the . on the outside of the ” — but, hey I open to learning. That’s what matters, right? haha
        I look forward to your thoughts on Siddhartha.

      • You open to learning? Haha. Siddhartha is pretty good. I got it out of the textbook storeroom at the school. Also I’ve almost finished The Arabian Nights so I really want to do a review of that one too.

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