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 

 

Ten Days in Italy

by Genesis Timblaco Geraldino

Milan, Bologna, Cinque Terre, Florence, Naples.

Ten Days in Italy

Thou Paradise of exiles, Italy! – Percy Bysshe Shelley

Myself and three other friends visited six beautiful and culturally rich locations in Italy. We loved every moment of our experience. Thanks to the boys for a trip of a lifetime.

In hindsight, I learned that sometimes maybe ‘winging’ it is best and maybe at other times, as I thought, not so. I also learned that I shouldn’t have too much Sangria and that just a glass of wine and a sip of grappa ain’t so bad. And to the strangers, turned friends, thanks for the stories!

Lastly, thanks Italy, sei bella! Where to next?

https://vimeo.com/169644316

PHOTO GALLERY

Milan

Bologna

Riomaggiore

Manarola Coast

Florence 

Naples

 

Munich or Berlin?

by Genesis Timblaco Geraldino

EuroTrip2015: Last year, I visited five cities and three countries – Germany, Netherlands, and Spain – all within nine days. This is the 2nd of three posts, featuring Germany.

Berlin

Berlin is a modern city – fast-paced and vibrant. Its night scene is no less than legendary. Berlin is also notable as a historical and cultural powerhouse. Do you know that it has over one hundred museums and galleries, three major opera houses, and more than fifty theaters? And yes, who has not heard of the Berlin wall? Yes, you are right. The Berlin wall is  one of the most powerful and enduring symbols of the Cold War.

Munich

Munich, the capital of the Bavaria region in southern Germany, lacks the industrial and arty feel of Berlin. Since no building is permitted to be taller than the main cathedral, you won’t find any skyscrapers in this big city with a small town feel.

Munich is also a bit more cozy with prettier parks. Who has not heard of the Octoberfest – the world-famous Bavarian beer hall environment and hearty, delicious food?

Barcelona or Madrid?

by Genesis Timblaco Geraldino

EuroTrip2015: On September 28, I left New York City to visit 5 cities in 3 countries – Germany, Netherlands, Spain- in 9 days. This is the first of three posts, featuring Spain.

Barcelona or Madrid?

Someone said that “Madrid is likable but Barcelona is to be loved.”

I personally love both cities. Barcelona’s architecture is spectacular. Who is not captivated by Gaudi’s madcap modernist buildings? Madrid, on the other hand, has three of Spain’s most famous art museums: The Prado, with its pre-20th century art; The Reina Sofia, with Picasso’s masterpiece Guernica, and; The Thyssen-Bornemisza, which is said to be one of the best private art collections in the world.

Barcelona, Spain

Madrid, Spain

One thing that struck me when leaving Madrid was a huge banner, draped on a building, that said “Refugees are welcome here”. It put a huge smile on my face because I believe everyone deserves a fighting chance in life. If it were not for my parents’ sacrifices, I wouldn’t be able to travel the world and do what I do now. They both weren’t coming from affluent families but they were determined to give their children a better life. So shout out to the parents and all the countries I’ve visited because they all took in refugees.

FOR YOUR TRAVEL GEAR: https://amzn.to/3gWvumT

The world is a book, and those who do not travel read only a page. ~ St. Augustine

by Genesis Geraldino

16-23 May 2015, Costa Rica 

To say that I’ve fallen in love with this country in the short time I am here would be an understatement! It could be because of the friendly smiles and faces of the locals. Or, it could be due to its weather and culture, which reminds me so much of home (The Philippines). I’ll definitely come back soon to check out other surf spots, but until then adios and pura vida!

Wanderlust: Pura Vida Costa Rica