I just finished reading The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho (in English, not the original Portuguese). I had a hard time getting into its style, which some people compare to that of Saint-Exupéry’s The Little Prince, but I think the big difference is… about 180 pages. You can get away with being crisp (in terms of sentence structure and character development) and overtly allegorical in a short work, but in a novel, it gets kind of weird. At least, it did for me.
That being said, I definitely appreciate the morals that Coelho presents. Particularly as a young, struggling writer, I found a lot to take away. Basically, Coelho says that following one’s dreams is a person’s only obligation in life, and that doing so contributes to the happiness and positivity of the world. However, not everyone has the courage to try. Why? Because of the four obstacles.
(Note: I’m paraphrasing so I don’t run into copyright issues. Remember, I didn’t originate these ideas, Paulo Coelho did. I’m just recapping them, because I like them.)
1. We are told that our dream is impossible. Over the years, the more we hear this, the less we believe, and the deeper we bury our dream even from ourselves.
2. If we manage to keep our dreams above ground (or dig them back up), then we must overcome love. We are afraid to hurt our loved ones by abandoning everything to pursue our dream, because we forget that those who really love us want us to succeed, and will accompany us on our journey.
3. If we are able to trust in our loves, then we must face our fear. We are afraid because if we fail, we cannot pretend we did not really want to succeed. We do want to achieve our dream, and we have risked everything for it. So we must have patience and persevere.
4. Finally, if we outlast our fears, then we come up against the final obstacle: ourselves. As we stand on the brink of success, we are suddenly filled with guilt. We do not understand why we should be so fortunate as to achieve our dream when so many others have not. This is the most dangerous of the obstacles, because there is an aura of martyrdom around it, around sacrificing your happiness and success for the sake of others. However, if you truly believe yourself worthy of the dream you worked so hard to achieve, then you should finish what you started, and understand that in doing so, you have contributed to the betterment of the universe.
Deep stuff, huh?
Well, reading The Alchemist made me examine myself in light of these ideas. I know what obstacles I’m facing right now (#2 and #3), and I can’t say that this book solved those problems, but I do think that it inspired me to overcome them. As Coelho says, the universe conspires to help everyone who is on their journey to achieve their dream. I guess that means Coelho is part of my conspiracy.