The strings of a lute are alone though they quiver with the same music.

Caravaggio - The Lute Player

Sing and dance together and be joyous

Fill each other’s cup but drink not from one cup.

Give one another of your bread but eat not from the same loaf.

Sing and dance together and be joyous, but let each one of you be alone,

Even as the strings of a lute are alone though they quiver with the same music.

by Kahlil Gibran (January 6, 1883 – April 10, 1931)
from The Prophet (1923)
section – Marriage
Image – Caravaggio (1573 – 1610) – The Lute Player


The first time I heard the word simpatico it was Spanglish, tossed into the middle of an English sentence. The person I was with realized I had no clue and stopped to exchange words, then said that there really wasn’t a one word substitution. It wasn’t a cognate for “sympathy,” and it wasn’t quite like saying someone is easy on the eyes, though “cute” would have been a good shorthand in the context of the moment. It was about feeling like you could relate to someone – like you could see yourself giving that person a hug, or like you could instinctively be of the same mind.

Or, in Kahlil Gibran’s sensuous words, “quiver with the same music.”

And, if I set aside that Kahlil Gibran is writing specifically about marriage, these four lines could represent a lot of different ways that separate cups and separated lute strings could symbolize “simpatico.”

I believe that simpatico is changing. Global warming is an international concern. Some of us have friends friends from other places, who have only meet online. We all share a world with other cultures that we may only see on TV, and yet we vibrate.

In honor of when we quiver with the same music, this one is for Neda, a stranger from across the world.

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One Response to “The strings of a lute are alone though they quiver with the same music.”

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