The Silver- Plated Turd
Jalil Gibran’s Thoughts and Meditations
Silman Effandi is a well-dressed man, tall and handsome, thirty-five years of age. He curls his moustaches and wears silk socks and patent-leather shoes. In his soft and delicate hand he carries a gold-headed and bejewelled walking stick. He eats in the most expensive restaurants where the fashionable forgather. In his magnificent carriage, drawn by thoroughbreds, he rides through the upper-class boulevards.
Silman Effandi’s wealth was not inherited from his father, who (may his soul rest in peace) was a poor man. Neither did Silman Effandi amass wealth by shrewd and persevering business activities. He is lazy and hates to work, regarding any form of labour as degrading.
Once we heard him say, “My physique and temperament unfit me for work; work is meant for those with sluggish character and brutish body.”
Then how did Silman attain his riches? By what magic was the dirt in his hands transformed into gold and silver? This is a secret hidden in a silver-plated turd which Azrael, the angel of Death, has revealed to us, and we in turn reveal it to you:
Five years ago Silman Effandi married the lady Faheema, widow of Betros Namaan, famous for his honesty, perseverance, and hard work.
Faheema was then forty-five of age, but only sweet sixteen in her thoughts and behaviour. She now dyes her hair and by the use of cosmetics deludes her self that she remains young and beautiful. She doses not see Silman, her young husband, except after midnight when he vouchsafes her a scornful look and some vulgarities and abuse by way of conversation. This entitles him, he believes, to spend the money which her first husband earned by the sweat of his brow.
Adeeb Effandi is a young man, twenty-seven years of age, blessed with a big nose, small eyes, dirty face and ink-spotted hands with filth-encrusted fingernails. His clothes are frayed and adorned with oil, grease and coffee stains.
His ugly appearance is not due to Adeeb Effandi’s poverty but to his preoccupation with spiritual and theological ideas. He often quotes Ameen El Jundy’s saying that a scholar cannot be both clean and intelligent.
In his incessant talk Adeeb Effandi has nothing to say except to deliver judgment on others. On investigation, we found that Adeeb Effandi had spent two years in a school at Beirut studying rhetoric. He wrote poems, essays, and articles, which never saw print.
His reasons for failing to achieve publication are the degeneration of the Arabic press and the ignorance of the Arabic reading public.
Recently Adeeb Effandi has been occupying himself with the study of the old and new philosophy, he admires Socrates and Nietzsche, and relishes the sayings of Saint Augustine as well as Voltaire and Rousseau. At a wedding party we heard him discussing Hamlet; but his talk was a soliloquy, for the others preferred to drink and sing.
On another occasion, at a funeral, the subjects of his talk were the love poems of Ben Al Farid and the wine-ism of Abi Nawaas. But he mourners ignored him, being oppressed by grief.
Why, we often wonder, does Adeeb Effandi exist?
What use are his rotting books and his parchments falling into dust? Would it not be better for him to buy himself an ass and become a healthy and useful ass driver?
This is a secret hidden in the silver-plated turd revealed to us by Baal-Zabul and we in turn shall now reveal it to you:
Three years ago Adeeb Effandi composed a poem in praise of His Excellency, Bishop Joseph Shamoun. His Excellency placed his hand on the shoulder of Adeeb Effandi, smiled and said, “Bravo, my son, God bless you! I have no doubt about your intelligence; some day you will be among the great men of the East.”
Fareed Bey Davis is a man in his late thirties, tall, with a small head and large mouth, narrow forehead and a bald pate. He walks with a pompous rolling gait, swelling his chest and stretching his long neck like a camel.
From his loud voice and his haughty manner you might imagine him (provided you had no met him before) the minister of a great empire, absorbed in public affairs.
But Fareed has nothing to do aside from enumerating and glorifying the deeds of his ancestors. He is fond of citing exploits of famous men, and deeds of heroes such as Napoleon and Antar. He is a collector of weapons of which he has never learned the use.
One of his sayings is that God created two different classes of people: the leaders and those who serve them. Another is that the people are like stubborn asses who do not stir unless you whip them. Another that the pen was meant for the weak and the sword for the strong.
What prompts Fareed to boast of his ancestry and behave as he does? This is a secret hidden in the silver-plated turd which Satanael has revealed to us, and we, in turn, reveal to you:
In the third decade of the nineteenth century when Emeer Basheer, the great Governor of Mount Lebanon, was passing with his retinue through the Lebanese valleys, they approached the village in which Mansour Davis, Fareed’s grandfather lived. It was an exceedingly hot day, and the Emeer dismounted from his horse and ordered his men to rest in the shadow of an oak tree.
Mansour Davis, discovering the Emeer’s presence, called the neighbouring farmers, and the good news spread through the village. Led by Mansour the villagers brought baskets of grapes and figs, and jars of honey, wine and milk for the Emeer. When they reached the oak tree, Mansour kneeled before the Emeer and kissed the hem of his robe. Then he stood up and killed a sheep in the Emeer’s honour, saying, “The sheep is from thy bounty, oh Prince and protector of our live.” The Emeer, pleased with such hospitality, said to him, “Henceforth you shall be the mayor of this village which I will exempt from taxes for this year.”
That night, after the Emeer had left, the villagers met at the house of “Sheik” Mansour Davis and vowed loyalty to the newly appointed Sheik. May God have mercy on their souls.
There are too many secrets contained in the silver plated turd to enumerate them all. The devils and satans reveal some to us every day and night, which we shall share with you before the angel of death wraps us under his wings and takes us into the Great Beyond.
Since it is now midnight and our eyes are getting heavy, permit us to surrender ourselves to slumber and perhaps the beautiful bride of dreams will carry our souls into a world cleaner than this one.