WOW. How serendipitous for it to be that book.
SF Ali

The story was actually a little more odd, in that you know how the book is about the cycles of life and rhythms of nature and how things sometimes move at a pace or happen out of our control and there can be beauty in that. So, I mean, in reality, I looked back later, I am sober now, I no longer drink, but I’m Irish and it is cultural- the area of the Bronx I was living in had a lot of Irish bars, I didn’t know anyone who didn’t drink. So, part of it was that. But I mean I sobered up a few days later and realized he hadn’t really lent me the book, I’d stolen it. I don’t even really think I knew he was an Imam, you know, just a silly guy in a white dress selling ratty old books on the side of the road. I needed a diversion from the police, he was calling after me and I told him I’d borrow it and give it back later.

I always have a ton of books, no matter what, I can be dying of thirst in the desert and you’ll be sure to see a small library around me. So I perused it on the subway platform, thought about tossing it, but instead tossed into my backpack with my trusty bottle of Majorsky’s vodka gallon jug, a towel (always know where your towel is) a stick of deodorant and a twenty bag of pot from the rastas, with seeds. I forgot about it. Later, that summer, I was between jobs, breaking up with my girlfriend, another one I’d knocked up (I was then 19), and canvassing for the environment, in particular for clean water- and I met this chick on that job and happened to have my backpack with me and happened to have it in it and she just couldn’t stop talking about it. Kind of annoying. So. So, at some point that year I dropped too much acid and went nuts, next thing I know I’m in six point restraints and think a nazi is torturing me, sticking tubes down my throat (after pumping my stomach) but the guy next to me has bullet wounds in his stomach and is bleeding out. NYC emergency rooms, like nothing else in the world.

I had a lot of time for contemplation over the six months after that, then, I dug a lot of ditches, cleaned a lot of toilets. That time for contemplation, after losing my mind, I couldn’t really handle Tolstoy, or Heidegger, or Sartre or Joyce, what I’d been reading, my (then) favorite writers. I was suggested a lot of self-help, but none of it seemed to work. I couldn’t take anything too religious. I’d had enough with the bible at that point. This was just right. I meditated a lot. I read that, and the Tao te Ching and the Tao of Pooh, and the Machiavelli’s the Prince (which eventually became my daily self-help book) and watched the Simpsons a lot and stopped drinking and started laughing again.

So I knew that copy of the book because of the library tag in the back. And I wanted to go back in and give it to him. But he’d vanished, as is often the case. I did the next best thing and donated it to a book drive. So, about five years after this, I’d stayed sober for five years, went back to school, a lot of small and wonderful things happened. I’d forgotten all about the book. I had felt like I was missing something and started looking for self-help books again. I turned, like so many people were at the time, to Depak Chopra. I have to admit here, I did read and enjoy the Alchemist, I’m a sucker for certain types of, well I also like the Celistine Prophecies, you get the schtick- but something about Chopra rubbed me the wrong way. Like Dr. Oz- I just don’t trust that guy. No one should be that interested in Gwyneth Paltrow’s shit. Her shit-talking, I love, her ass, divine, but meh, what comes out of it, not so crazy about.

I don’t like gurus. It all seems like Jamestown to me, or like the Manson family or something, even if it is peaceful. Or a telemarketing scam. Give me all your money and I’ll- like the televangelists or Pat Robertson. But I gave one of his books a try, a friend who has a lot of similar tastes as I do recommended if I was going to try it he’d heard better things about this one- tried it, didn’t like it, was ready to trash it. As much as I love books, if there is something I find distasteful, as much as I believe in reselling, in borrowing, in sharing, love used books, I won’t hesitate to toss it in the garbage, take the loss. I was downtown, in SoHo, going out to dinner, pleasant summer Sunday, I was just about to toss it in the trash when I turn the corner, and there is the self-same Imam, who I haven’t seen now in at this point almost seven years. And somehow, he has the same copy of the book! And I arrange a trade with him, which he begrudgingly accepts, since my copy of the Chopra book, though used, still had the jacket and was relatively new and had a high book value of like $20 US hardcover.

It looked the same, but I was almost too excited to check and see if it was the exact same copy. But when I got home, like a child who can barely wait on christmas morning, I ripped open my backpack to look at the back and it had the exact same library card!

I have taken his advice to read it slowly, savoring each page like a meaty morsel filled with sweet, succulent treasure, meditating on each passage. I also had decided then, that if I were able, I would try and do whatever I could to share it. That was the original impetus behind my online library. Which for a while I sending to jails, adding people on twitter, after the Chicago occupy, but that wasn’t the best idea (I tend not to discriminate in my tastes, and I should probably curate some of the material out of it). So, this is the link to the pdf copy, which I’m sure people could find elsewhere, but I feel a certain obligation. The Prophet by Kahlil Gibran .txt .zip file via OneDrive.

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