Life Under The Influence
Books, books, books. What a wonderful influence they are in my life. From the time I was a small child, my life has been under their magical spell. They provided the wings which carried me to foreign places and undiscovered worlds and gave me the foundation to better understand the world in which I was growing up.
During my freshman year of college, a Douglass College coed, Marni Politte, gave me a copy of The Prophet by Kahlil Gibran for my birthday. It was then that I became aware of a book’s power to affect my entire life.
That particular weekend was very stressful for me because on Monday I was to meet with my counsellor and declare my major. I‘d considered Political Science and prelaw but a phone conversation with my mother the week before had raised some doubts.
“You’re too honest,” she said, “and lawyers have to bend the truth sometimes in order to defend their clients.”
So, that weekend I poured over the college handbook, looking for a subject to grab my interest. Something to which I could devote my life. Something that I would enjoy learning about. There were too many choices and too much confusion. Overwhelmed with the task at hand, I returned to the gift I received that Friday, hoping for inspiration.
I loved Gibran’s insights into life. The syncopation of his words lifted my heart as no writer I had previously read. Over the span of that weekend, I read The Prophet cover to cover a half dozen times.
Monday morning came and I still had no idea what I would declare as my major, as I sat on the floor outside the counsellor’s office with twenty other freshman students. Our appointments were scheduled ten minutes apart. Not much time for making a life time commitment.
When my name was called, I walked in the counsellor’s office. We had only met once before at the beginning of the previous semester. He pretended to know me but he didn’t. We shook hands and I sat down while he leafed through my file.
“Are you still interested in prelaw?”
“No, not anymore.” I proceeded to tell him about the conversation with my mother. I was stalling because I had no idea what to choose and the minutes were ticking away fast.
“Well,” he said with a confused look. “What will be your major then?”
“Philosophy!’ I blurted out.
“Good choice. That’s a small department. Good Luck.” He stood up and extended his hand. After all, he still had another fifty student to see before lunch and had to keep us moving.
“Philosophy?” I pondered as I walked down the hallway now lined on both sides with students waiting their turn to make a major life decision. I didn’t know where that answer came from. I didn’t even know what philosophy was.
I waited at the bus stop still in a fog of confusion trying to understand why I’d told my counsellor I wanted to major in something I knew nothing about nor had I taken any courses on the subject.
I returned to my dorm room, looked up the word “philosophy” and begin to read. When I got to the words, “Love of wisdom,” I knew I had made the right decision. I had literally inhaled a single man’s wisdom over that weekend and it seemed only logical that I should begin to develop my own.
I don’t know had many copies of The Prophet I have given to others over the years, but each is inscribed with the same words that Marni inscribed in mine:
“Lo, how a rose e’er blooming…”
Thank you Marni, fifty years later, I still am….