Finding a great book is like discovering a new language, it puts everything into a different shade of perception. A truly excellent book can travel beyond all the limitations we think we have. It will expand the mind in a manner that has not been achieved before. Its creativity is marvelously genuine and honest, in such a way that it can speak to a million people is a million different ways. Finding a book like this, for me, is like enjoying a really long home-cooked dinner. The only difference is their means of ingestion: body or mind.
The last time I came across such a book was in November. I was in the middle of finals and I really needed an outlet that could take me away from all my research. Call me 20 years late, but the book I finally discovered was The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho. I had always heard rave reviews from both professionals and friends, but I had never got around to actually reading it. For some reason or another, it never crossed my path. In retrospect, I see that my consciousness was not in the right place to absorb the lessons the novel had to offer (more on this later). However, once it came my way, I devoured it in the span of two nights—if I had not needed to sleep that first evening, I would have finished it in a matter of hours.
I think this is the best cover of all his editions
This novel was, for lack of a better word, awesome. Purely awesome. It begins slow, but the detail-rich descriptions and personal tidbits of life-learned lessons kept me turning pages with enthusiasm. Something about the way Coelho so honestly writes connected me to every word. Beyond just the story—as many books are capable of achieving a plot—Coelho weaves in thematic dispositions that speak to much higher universal concepts.
One of the most intriguing themes was that of love. Whether we accept it or not, love is something we all want. Coelho provides a completely original context to explore the depths of love as a reality. Through a few examples, he shows that love is neither defined by romance, attachement, or desire, instead transcending all and is embodied in one’s true path, or in this case one’s treasure.
As children we understood the concept of passion much clearer than we do as adults. So many external factors blur the ideas that keep our inner fires lit. Soon these ideas fade and are covered by mind-numbing suppression. Responsibility, pride, denial, and fear keep us away from our true desires, our passions. Often times, the avoidance will cause physical harm, manifesting in disease, depression, and ultimately the surrender of life. I know because I have come close to surrendering to my passion. In fact, it was only because I chose to follow my path that I was lead to this book, which served as a reaffirmation of my decisions.
You’ll always know if you are following your path
The same problem I was facing was exactly what was going on in the book: the dilemma between love and Love. In the Alchemist, a young shepard is faced with choosing between his familiar experience of love, one of comfort and romance, and the unknown outcome of following his passion, his interior self Love. Through out the book, he meets people in all stages of this exact dilemma. In the end, he chooses to follow his personal Love, for without that, no other love could exist.
It was this idea that expanded my consciousness. Love without the self is not love. Love for a girl, a dog, a father, or anything in the universe is incomplete unless it emanates from within. This means if I don’t love myself, I cannot love another. If I cannot do what I want to do, what I am here to do, my dharma, then I cannot learn to love anything else. Love will never stand in the way of one’s true path. If it tries to, then it is not love.
The Alchemist poetically orchestrates these timeless lessons of Love, dharma, and passion with a clarity and simplicity so often under-utilized in the literary world. This is the reason this novel has sold over 60 million copies in over 150 countries. If you haven’t already read this book, or if you haven’t read it in a while, I strongly suggest you pick it up. This book has so much to offer that I know the next time I read it I’ll learn something completely new.
Coelho is a huge fan of “pirating” his book as he thinks all should have access. He has even shown that by giving it away on the internet, his sales have risen. So here’s a link to his pirating blog where you can download a version of his novel for free. Enjoy!