Tag Archive: Paulo Coelho


ONLY 3 THINGS CAN CHANGE OUR LIVES!

True

 

The alchemist and Orientalism

the alchemist

Edward Said – Orientalism

http://www.butler-bowdon.com/alchemist

The Alchemist is remarkable for being a love story that renounces the idea that romantic love must be the central thing in your life. Each person has a destiny to pursue that exists independently of other people. It is the thing you would do, or be, even if you have all the love and money you want. The treasure Santiago seeks is of course the symbol of the personal dream or destiny, but he is happy to give up on it when he finds the woman of his dreams in a desert oasis. Yet the alchemist tells him that the love of his oasis girlfriend will only be proved real if she is willing to support his treasure search.

Santiago’s dilemma is about the conflict between love and personal dreams; too often we see the love relationship as the meaning of our life, but the obsession with romantic coupling can cut us off from a life more connected with the rest of the world. But surely the heart has needs? Live your life around the dream, Coelho says, and their will be more ‘heart’ in your life than you can now comprehend: ‘…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’. Romantic love is important, but is not your duty as is the pursuit of your dream. Only through devotion to the dream is the ‘Soul of the World’ revealed to us, the knowledge which destroys loneliness and gives power.

Treasure of the present

The alchemist Santiago meets in the desert is the real thing. He actually can turn base metals into gold, the goal of the medieval alchemists. Santiago asks why the other alchemists never succeeded, and gets the strange answer, ‘They were only looking for gold.’ That is, they were seeking only the treasure of their destiny rather actually trying to live the destiny. Their focus on a prize lessened the quality of the present.

This is similar to Hindu concept of not seeking the fruit of our actions, but just doing according to our dharma, or purpose. There is a subtle distinction between living out the destiny, as you have comprehended it, and scrabbling to achieve some distant goal. Destiny is not a prize but a state of being, realised only when, as the camel driver counsels Santiago, we live in the present. Alchemy is difficult to understand for today’s mind, because it was a ‘science’ that blended matter and spirit. The alchemists spent years patiently heating and purifying metals, but the end result, a product of their total immersion in the task, was a purification of themselves. The moral being can make the distinction between the prize and the journey.