The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho has changed the lives of its readers since its creation. Its a literary classic and universally admired among its readers. The Alchemist tells the magical story of Santiago, an Andalusian shepherd boy who dreams of travel and treasure. The story of Santiago inspires readers, as only a few stories can. It teaches about listening to our intuition, and about following our dreams. And best of all, it’s full of biblical wisdom.
I read the graphic novel version (because I love graphic novels), but it also comes in the normal text version as well. If you are a fan of graphic novels, you should give this one a try. It’s a quicker read than the text version and the graphics in this book were incredible; they really helped to bring the vision of the story to life. After reading each page, I found myself taking a few minutes to soak up the illustrations and the meanings of the messages.
I reread my favorite passages over and over again, and I even took screen shots of some of my favorite quotes. I related to the wisdom shared in this book. Being a dreamer myself, I have always felt that anything was possible if you conspired to make it happen. That’s what The Alchemist is about; the universe conspiring to assist anyone who is willing to forsake the idea of normality and titles and stability to instead figure out their purpose in life and then sacrifice everything to achieve it.
In one line from the book, the main character, Santiago is speaking with a “king” who seemingly knows everything about the universe and all it’s secrets of life. I believe the character is a representation of GOD. He knows about Santiago, a traveling shepherd with whom he has never met, and a local baker. He tells Santiago that when the baker was a child, he dreamed of traveling too. But he instead became a baker because it was a more respectable and stable career choice. But because of that choice, the baker will only travel one time in his life, when he is very old. And in that way, “what people think about shepherds and bakers becomes more important for them than their own personal legend,” says the king. How often have you given up on a dream to follow the road that is more frequently traveled? How many parents are pushing their kids to become lawyers or doctors, instead of artists or writers? I have known people who worked over 30 years at jobs they didn’t like, in hopes that retirement would be their “golden years,” in which they planned to travel, change careers, or take up a new hobby. Only to realize that with time, they had lost motivation to make those dreams a reality. They are no richer, nor healthier, nor younger. And they eventually justify not reaching their true potential, having succumbed to responsibility.
The point is, that all too often, we allow the weight of the world to force us out of our dream until we become daytime zombies and late night couch potatoes. We become so enamored with financial status, titles, and other people’s opinions, that we forget who we are as individuals. We forget that as a kid, we loved to draw, so we should have become an illustrator or a painter. Or if we liked to build things, we should have become an inventor or a carpenter. Naysayers will not believe in your dreams, the Alchemist says, “when you possess great treasure within you, seldom are you believed.”
Another lesson the book touched on, was “evolving”. As Santiago became closer to reaching his “personal legend,” he began to evolve as a person, and so everything around him had no choice but to evolve as well. He worked in a crystal shop and helped to evolve the business and the business owner. He spent time traveling in the desert with tribesmen, who also evolved and came to have great respect for him, According to the Alchemist, his mentor of sorts, “when something evolves, everything around that thing evolves as well.” Have you ever heard the saying, “be the change you wish to see in the world”? These two quotes mean the same thing. If you evolve, everything and everyone who remains in your company will eventually evolve as well. For example, last year I decided to become a vegetarian, much to my family’s bewilderment. But the more they heard me discuss my reasons for becoming a vegetarian, they eventually began to get on board too. My daughter has now been a vegetarian for over a year, my husband has significantly cut back on meat and diary products, and even my parents have started to make a small shift away from animal products. Evolution is happening.
But so is fear. Sometime ago, I wrote an article about how fear is embedded in us through various worldly sources; the title of the post was called Fear or Freedom. The book touches a lot on fear as well. The owner of the crystal shop was afraid to seek out his personal legend, for fear that he would be disappointed. The baker feared not having stability. The Englishman carried a gun because he feared he would encounter dangerous people. And Santiago himself, feared losing his sheep; he feared leaving the woman he loved behind; he feared that he would lose his way of life, and he feared death. But what he feared most was not achieving his personal legend. So every time, fear would sneak inside him, he continued to press on and listen to his heart. Here are two great quotes from the book regarding fear:
“Don’t give into your fears. If you do, you won’t be able to talk to your heart” – Paulo Coelho
“If a person is living out his personal legend, he knows everything he needs to know. There is only one thing that makes a dream impossible to achieve; the fear of failure.” – Paulo Coelho
For those of you who study the bible, like I do, fear is spoken of several times in the bible. GOD says in Psalm 118:6, “The LORD is with me, I will not be afraid. What can mere mortals do to me?”
“For the spirit GOD gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love, and self-discipline.” – 2 Timothy 1:7
As the book is set in Spain and parts of Africa, most of the characters are Muslim. But as a Christian, I can still appreciate the biblical references; such as when the leaders compared Santiago and his ability to interpret visions to Joseph in the book of Genesis. There was also a cameo by Jesus, as the Alchemist told the story of a centurion who displayed a great deal of faith by asking Jesus to just “say the word” so his servant would be healed. This story is told in the Book of Matthew 8:5-13 in the bible. Another of my favorite quotes from the The Alchemist reminded me of a few other scriptures from the bible.
The quote from The Alchemist says:
“I have inside me, the winds, the deserts, the oceans, the stars and everything created in the universe. We are all made by the same hand, we have the same soul.” – Paulo Coehl
References from scripture:
“And God has given us his Spirit as proof that we live in him and he in us.” -1 John 4:13 NLT
“Yes, I am the vine; you are the branches. Those who remain in me, and I in them, will produce much fruit. For apart from me you can do nothing.” – John 15:5 NLT
If you are a dreamer at heart, if you have forgotten your purpose in this world, if you deal with people not believing in your dreams or your visions for life, if you are on your own personal journey; I implore you, run to the library, to the bookstore, sign-on to your favorite e-book platform, and read The Alchemist by Paulo Coehl.