About a month ago I received a message from my friend Eric with the question: “How do you feel about writing in books?” My initial response was that it’s blasphemy because books are so sacred to me, but then he went on to tell me about his copy of The Alchemist: “All the dog-eared pages, sticky notes and underlines — they make it my Alchemist. This book is sacred to me.”
Having that conversation made me realize that this book by Paulo Coelho’s is more than just a novel — it’s a guidebook to life.
Coelho’s story revolves around Santiago, a young Spanish shepherd who calls Andalusia his home. Troubled by a recurring dream in which he sees the Pyramids of Egypt, the boy consults with a dream interpreter who advises him that there is treasure waiting for him in Africa. Believing the interpreter to be a fraud, Santiago then has a chance meeting with an old man who reaffirms the interpreter’s reading, and also claims to be a king. The old king tells Santiago that he needs to sell his flock and travel to Egypt to fulfill his Personal Legend. At first Santiago is sceptical, but once the king is able to prove his credibility the boy agrees to heed his advice and catches the ferry across the Strait of Gibraltar into Tangier. From here, Santiago’s journey takes him across the north of Africa in order to fulfill his destiny.
In my last Travel List Tuesday post discussing Wild by Cheryl Strayed, I mentioned that I have a collection of books that cling to me which I reread periodically. These books provide me with life lessons, insight and hope, and The Alchemist has been in that collection since I first read it over ten years ago.
The main theme that runs throughout this story pertains to realizing one’s dreams and fulfilling your role on this earth (i.e. your Personal Legend); to refuse to be complacent and to chase what it is that makes you happy. However, The Alchemist also provides lessons on love and determination.
My copy of The Alchemist seems to always find me in times of need, and this time around I finished it in one day during my commute to and from work. I read it with a ravenous appetite, jotting down quotes to not only share with you, but to also keep for myself.
“And, when you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it.”
“It’s the possibility of having a dream come true that makes life interesting.”
“One is loved because one is loved. No reason is needed for loving.”
“When we love, we always strive to become better than we are. When we strive to become better than we are, everything around us becomes better too.”
“This is what we call love. When you are loved, you can do anything in creation. When you are loved, there’s no need at all to understand what’s happening, because everything happens within you.”
“Don’t give in to your fears. If you do, you won’t be able to talk to your heart.”
“The secret of life, though, is to fall seven times and to get up eight times.”
“Tell your heart that the fear of suffering is worse than the suffering itself. And that no heart has ever suffered when it goes in search of its dreams, because every second of the search is a second’s encounter with God and with eternity.”
“There is only one thing that makes a dream impossible to achieve: the fear of failure.”
Eric and I both agree that this book is useful for those who feel lost or at ends. In fact, the same day that I started rereading my copy I messaged him a picture of the cover and the caption: “Guess what I’m reading?” His response: “No way! Guess what I did today? I sent a copy to a friend of mine in New York. Literally, three hours ago I was putting it in the mail.” He even included this quote he wrote himself inside the cover:
Eric followed up by telling me that he also wrote his name in the cover, instructed his friend to do the same, and then to pass it along to whomever his friend felt needed the book. I thought this was an amazing idea.
This book is magical. It gave me the hope I needed during a particularly rough day. Read it if you’re feeling “lost at sea”.
Fear not, brave sailor. You got this.