Lijit Ad Wijit

Thursday, December 31, 2009

Magnificent pity party

Recently a friend suggested I read The Alchemist by Paulo Coehlo, a book which I enjoyed. The simple telling reads very much like an "everyman" story, a fable meant to teach. But Coehlo is able to package profound insights in ways that are surprising (where you think - he's right! but I never could have said it like that) and succinct. I wonder how many people realize the power of simple words.

The central character is a young shepherd who is persuaded to set out on a journey to find a treasure at the pyramids of Egypt. Early in the story the young man sells all of his sheep to finance the trip, sails to Africa where he is swindled out of all his money, and then left alone in an empty market, throws a magnificent pity party. At this point in the book he says:

"When I had my sheep, I was happy, and I made those around me happy. People saw me coming and welcomed me, he thought. But now I'm sad and alone. I'm going to become bitter and distrustful of people because one person betrayed me. I'm going to hate those who have found their treasure because I never found mine. And I'm going to hold onto what little I have becasue I'm too insignificant to conquer the world" (p 39, emphasis mine).

Though few of us would literally say these things to ourselves in a moment of crisis, these are often the silent thoughts that influence our decisions when we're backed up against a wall. A thousand moments trickle into my mind, those moments where I whisper that lie of insignificance to myself. The same lie that we project onto other people. We suffocate freedom and dreams and hopes in the name of fear and disappointment and bitterness.

Let go of what little you have and find the freedom to conquer the world.

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