Bite-Sized Philosophy

Kahlil Gibran On Finding Love In The Work You Do

How Our Perspective Changes The Nature Of Work Itself

R. C. Abbott
3 min readJul 16, 2021

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A screenshot from Jean-luc Godard’s Alphaville. A woman with shiny black hair and thick mascara stares into the camera. The subtitle reads: Away, away, says hate; Closer, closer, says love.
Photo credit: Criterion Babe. Alphaville 1965, Jean-luc Godard.

In his miraculous (and very short) novel The Prophet, Kahlil Gibran tells the story of Amlustafa, a fictional prophet about to leave the town he has lived in for twelve years. The townsfolk are sad to see him go and seek to ask for a final few shards of wisdom before he embarks on his journey. The ploughman asks him to speak about work.

Work As A Natural Phenomenon

The Prophet explains that work is an integral part of a natural existence:

You work that you make keep pace with the earth and the soul of the earth.

But he also emphasizes that there is a spiritual component to work. If done correctly, your work is an expression of love for all of life:

And in keeping yourself with labour you are in truth loving life,

And to love life through labour is to be intimate with life’s inmost secret.

If done incorrectly, he claims that your work is actually detrimental to the world:

And if you cannot work with love but only with distaste, it is better that you should leave your work and sit at the gate of the temple and take alms of those who work with joy.

For if you bake bread with indifference, you bake a bitter bread that feeds but half a man’s hunger.

And if you grudge the crushing of the grapes, your grudge distills a poison in the wine.

Painting of a woman from the 1700s peeling potatoes over a large pot on the floor. She seems distracted.
The Kitchen Maid, 1738. Jean Siméon Chardin.

The idea that work done with bad intentions has a negative impact on the world or those around the worker is nothing new…

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