Failures and defeats are what everyone of us meets throughout life. But how we react to them is that which decides how successful we can be. Kahlil Gibran’s poem ‘Defeat’ gives a lesson on learning from our failures and appreciating them.
The poet calls defeat his solitude and aloofness. As said in one of the previous posts, we need to differentiate solitude from loneliness. Solitude is our time and it helps us reflect on yourselves. When defeat gives us our solitude, we reflect on what went wrong and what needs to be done to improve ourselves. This, we cannot get from success. So, failure is dearer than all the victories and sweeter to the heart than all the fame and respect which success gives.
Also, the poet calls defeat his self-knowledge and defiance. Through defeat, we learn that we are still young and prone to mistakes. Through it, we know that we have a long way to go and that we shouldn’t be trapped by the fleeting fame. When we fail, we receive criticisms and are censured. Some of these criticisms help us to grow and through defeat only, we learn more about ourselves and become strong.
Defeat, my Defeat, my self-knowledge and my defiance,
Through you I know that I am yet young and swift of foot
And not to be trapped by withering laurels.
In the third stanza, the poet calls defeat his ‘shining sword and shield’ because it protects him from falling prey to ignorance and false knowledge. Through it, the poet learnt that to succeed and labelled as a winner is to be enslaved. This is because when we succeed in something, we think we have mastered that thing and think no more. To think that we have understood everything is to level down ourselves and to be grasped by the ecstatic emotions caused by success is to be in an illusion. Hence, through defeat we learn about our weaknesses and though we fall, we are to cherish the defeat just like how a fallen ripe fruit is relished.
That to be enthroned is to be enslaved,
And to be understood is to be leveled down,
And to be grasped is but to reach one’s fullness
And like a ripe fruit to fall and be consumed.
Now, the poet calls defeat his companion with whom he can be himself. When alone with defeat, he can talk openly about his worries and hardships. People console us when we fail but there is no greater consolation than defeat itself. Only defeat can truly tell us about what we need to work on, how to overcome hardships and challenges and how hard we should work to reach the goal. Only defeat can break into our insecurities and soul and show a way out.
And none but you shall speak to me of the beating of wings,
And urging of seas,
And of mountains that burn in the night,
And you alone shall climb my steep and rocky soul.
Lastly, the poet calls defeat his ‘deathless courage’. He imagines himself laughing with defeat when undergoing challenges and together digging graves for everything that they shall leave behind. Finally, both the poet and defeat will see the sun and stand victoriously for all the dark times are gone. And this will be dangerous because there is no one more powerful than a person who has learnt to embrace his defeat.
Defeat, my Defeat, my deathless courage,
You and I shall laugh together with the storm,
And together we shall dig graves for all that die in us,
And we shall stand in the sun with a will,
And we shall be dangerous.
When we rightly learn to appreciate our defeat, there can be no greater strength than our defeat itself. Defeat shapes us stronger and wiser and brings us close to fullness. To succeed, we should befriend defeat and it shall be our greatest motivation.