Saturday, June 21, 2008

The Alchemist

I recently finished reading The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho, which has sold twenty million copies, is published in fifty-six languages, and is celebrating its 20th anniversary.

It reminded me of The Little Prince in its simplicity. It was about ignoring nay-sayers, embracing a certain selfishness, fighting the good fight, and being brave enough to grab a hold of your dream when you get to it.

The main character, Santiago, has studied for years to be a priest, but what he really wanted to do was to travel. So he summoned the courage to disappoint his family, and became a shepherd -- the only thing he could think to do in order to travel. The story picks up when he meets a Gypsy, who interprets his recurring dream of hidden treasure, a king who encourages him to find his Personal Legend, a thief, a crystal merchant, an Englishman whose Personal Legend was to find an alchemist, and of course, The Alchemist.

There book progresses through Santiago's experience with the principal of favorability (or beginner's luck), his response to signs and omens (and intuition) that guide him, and the tests of patience and courage to which he is subjected in order to master his lessons and achieve his Personal Legend. While it turns out his treasure was his travels, Santiago found both love and monitary treasure, as life is generous to those who pursue their Personal Legends.

The book presents the idea that the principle that governs all things is the Soul of the World, and when you want something with all your heart, you are closest to the Soul of the World. While it does acknowledge that everything has its price, the theme of the book is that when you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it, and that to realize one's destiny is a person's only obligation. Pursuing your Personal Legend betters the Soul of the World.

I really enjoyed the book, but was a bit freaked out that I may be unaware of my Personal Legend (although travel seems an enjoyable one to me!). If I think only of myself, what would I pursue? Would seeing the Egyptian Pyramids fulfill my most pressing life goal? Being the mayor of a small town? Building a self-sustaining home? Writing a novel? Do you know what YOUR Personal Legend is?

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