Why I keep on re-reading Paulo Coelho’s “The Alchemist.”

In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “Sink or Swim.”

By Marietta Geraldino

Much has been written about Paulo Coelho’s highly acclaimed novel, The Alchemist. Rightly, so. The novel has remained on The New York Times Best Seller list for over 300 weeks. It has been reviewed by readers from all walks of life and critiqued from both ends of the spectrum.

I first got hold of The Alchemist during one of my visits to the New York City Public Library, my secret hideout when I wanted to ‘disappear.’ It was in 2004. I just moved to New York City and felt so alone, lost, and overwhelmed. Reading novels was one of the ways I coped with work stress and homesickness.

At first, I kept on asking myself, “What makes the story of Santiago, a Spanish shepherd boy, special?” It’s been reported that then-President Bill Clinton was photographed leaving the White House with a copy of the novel. Even Madonna and Will Smith, I learned, raved about the book.

“Where’s the disconnect? Why do I find The Alchemist ordinary?”

“It won fans in high places,” I reminded myself. So, I continued to flip the pages aimlessly, underwhelmed. Then, I began to take notice of the novel’s recurring themes. The message completely and deeply resonated with me:

“To realize one’s Personal Legend is a person’s only obligation.”
“When you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you achieve it.”
“People are capable, at any time in their lives, of doing what they dreamed of.”

The novel speaks of the importance of seeking ones’ own spiritual meaning –  passion, purpose – in life, and spending one’s life fulfilling it. A personal legend, as it’s referred to in The Alchemist, is a destiny unique to every person.

Coming to New York City through a temporary H-1B teaching visa was a risk and a commitment to several unknowns. After all, I was already an accomplished educator in the Philippines for 15 years. But really, who would pass up the chance to teach and to live in the city with infinite possibilities? Not me. In fact, working in the Big Apple is a dream come true – a blessing. With my educational portfolio, I was confident that I would make it on day one. How difficult could it be?

I got ‘schooled.’

The reality of teaching in a high-need school in America immediately doused my confidence and enthusiasm. I could not seem to manage my teaching space. I was totally and unquestionably out of my comfort zone.

It was during this crucial point that I crossed paths with The Alchemist. Suddenly, its message seemed relevant. The novel’s recurring theme seemed to speak to me directly – comforting, challenging, egging me on to persevere and to believe in what I do. I was reminded that I came to New York City to do what I do best and that if others could successfully teach under the same constraints, then there’s no reason why I could not.

In 2013, I was named as one of New York’s top teachers.

Maktub! 

During the novel’s crucial points, many of the characters that Santiago meets during his journey would say this word. Maktub, according to the crystal merchant, means “It is written.

Fast forward to 2020.

A current situation reminded me to re-read the novel, which is no longer in my possessionThat’s how I came to buy the 25th-anniversary edition of The Alchemist. This time, I intended to read it with purpose – to seek a deeper understanding of Coelho’s divining symbolism and concept of personal legend.

This time, however, it’s the story of the book’s publication that inspired me the most. The foreword reads:

” When The Alchemist was first published twenty-five years ago in my native Brazil, no one noticed. A bookseller in the northeast corner of the country told me that only one person purchased a copy of the first week of its release ….  By the end of the year, it was clear to everyone that The Alchemist wasn’t working. My original publisher decided to cut me loose and canceled our contract.”

Coelho explained, “I was 41 and desperate. But I never lost faith in the book or ever wavered in my vision. Why? Because it was me in there, all of me, heart and soul. I was living my own metaphor.”

This brings me to the question, “Does the novel also speak of my own metaphor?”

Yes. Re-reading The Alchemistafter 16 years, makes me question my current comfort zone. It makes me wonder, “Am I living my personal legend? Is this it?” Or, “Am I like the crystal merchant who has become complacent and has given up the pursuit of his personal legend?”

 I say, “Maktub!” 

And, hence, begins my renewed self quest for a deeper understanding of my own personal legend, as viewed from a new lens. Isn’t such a toll order inspired by a novel that I first thought of as ordinary?


AMAZON AUDIBLE: BECOMING 

THE PAULO COELHO ESSENTIALS: https://amzn.to/3kwCdWZ 

 

‘Parenthesis in Eternity’

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In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “Exhale.”

Dear Leah,

Greetings from New York City!

I wish I could say, “Do not let cancer rob you of your inner joy and zest for life.” But I do not really know anything. 

You have requested me to create a math equation for you. “Just like that episode in the TV show Numbers,” you said. You giggled like a little child when you made your request.

I tried hard not to cry.  

I did muster the courage to say, “Although we all face certain struggles in life, it is the way by which we respond to our struggle that dictates the weight of our burden.”

Know that I deeply admire the strength of your faith. Even now that you are battling with Cancer, you still radiate hope and joy to us – we, who are supposed to be the ones to give you comfort.

Because of that, I believe that r = a – b sinθ can be your mathematical equation. Let the coefficient, a, refer to the strength of your faith and the coefficient b equal to God’s love for you, such that a = b = 1. Then, your equation becomes:

r = 1 – sin θ,             

the graph of which is a heart-shaped polar curve known as cardioid, from theCardiod Greek word “kardia,” for heart.

The polar equation r = 1 – sin θ may then signify that you, Leah, are love manifest. Cancer cannot change that fact.

Thank you for reminding me to always take time to whisper a prayer of gratitude for each breaking dawn.  For indeed, tomorrow is not promised.  

To quote Paulo Coelho:

“We are travelers on a cosmic journey, stardust, swirling and dancing in the eddies and whirlpools of infinity. Life is eternal. We have stopped for a moment to encounter each other, to meet, to love, to share. This is a precious moment. It is a little parenthesis in eternity.”

Know that you are always in my heart and prayers.

Lovingly,

Ma’am Mayette


P.S. Leah joined her Creator on July 29, 2014.

A Parenthesis in Eternity

A Letter to a Friend

Dear Leah,

Know that I am with you in your moment of trial.

I wish I could say, “Do not let cancer rob you of your inner joy and zest for life. ” But I do not really know anything. All I can say is this: Cancer does not define you.

Before I will attempt to write your personalized math equation, please allow me to say that we all face a certain struggle  in life. How we look at each problem and the manner by which we respond to it seem to dictate the weight of our burden.

Cardioid

Image:cardioid-wikimedia-commons

There is one thing that I am certain about humans, though. We are all created in HIS image. HE who is love and the source of everything good and eternal.

You are a child of the light. That is why you always bring such joy to your family, friends, and colleagues. You continue to radiate hope and faith, more so now that you are battling with the Big C, than you ever have been.

If I were to summarize your life’s journey using math, then I believe that the equation r = a – b sinθ models your story.

Let the coefficient, a, refer to the strength of your faith in HIM and b equal to HIS love for you, such that a = b =1. Then the equation of your journey becomes: r = 1-sinθ, the graph of which is a heart-shaped polar curve known as cardioid, from the Greek word “kardia,” for heart.

The polar equation r = 1-sin θ, therefore, signifies that you, Leah, are LOVE MANIFEST. Cancer cannot change that fact.

Always take time to whisper a prayer of gratitude for each breaking dawn because tomorrow is not promised.  Stay positive, keep the faith, and live life to the fullest!

To borrow the wisdom of Paulo Coelho:

“We are travelers on a cosmic journey, stardust, swirling and dancing in the eddies and whirlpools of infinity. Life is eternal. We have stopped for a moment to encounter each other, to meet, to love, to share. This is a precious moment. It is a little parenthesis in eternity.”

You are always in my heart and prayers!

Sincerely,
Ma’am Mayette


P.S. Leah has joined her Creator. This was posted in her FB wall: 

“Graduation time has finally come for me. With gratitude for the chance to journey thru life with you, I just joined the Lord wholeheartedly bringing along fond memories. Thank you very much for being a part of my journey. God bless you and your loved ones! ” ~ Maria Leah C. H. (July 2, 1974 – July 29, 2014)