I read a book given to me by a dear friend over the weekend. While not a new release, The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho is both timely and universal. The story is about an Andalusian shepherd boy who follows a recurring dream of finding his treasure near the Great Pyramids. He follows his heart to Africa and then to Eygpt, where he meets the alchemist, who mentors him in his quest to follow his Personal Legend.
Along the way, he meets people who teach him about life in unique ways. A camel driver tells him, "We are afraid of losing what we have, whether it's our life or our possessions and property. But this fear evaporates when we understand that our life stories and the history of the world were written by the same hand" (Coelho 76). He also meets a man who tells him that though it is an obligation for him, as a Muslim, to make a pilgrimmage to Mecca, he knows he will never do it because he believes that once his Personal Legend is fulfilled, he will have no reason to live. Another explains that he fulfilled his Personal Legend and felt immense freedom because he could die a complete man.
As the boy Santiago (more often than not referred to as "the boy" to stress the universal message of this tale) crosses the desert, he sinks into the quiet stillness of his heart and learns that it is afraid to suffer. The alchemist advises him, "Tell your heart that the fear of suffering is worse than the suffering itself. And that no heart has ever suffered when it goes in search of its dreams, because every second of the search is a second's encounter with God and with eternity" (Coelho 130).
The boy also learns about matters of love and the alchemist sagaciously says, "When we love, we strive to be better than we are" (Coehlo 151). Essentially, because we are a part of the Soul of the World, when we connect with one another in love, we are bettering the world.
Clearly, there is much to take away from The Alchemist. It's not easy to follow one's dreams, to listen to one's heart, especially in a day and age when the status quo rules and so many expectations are placed upon us from various sources. But, this book makes us think. It made me consider what exactly is my Personal Legend (still working on that rough draft) and it encouraged me to reflect on the decisions I make in my life -- am I being the best teacher I can be? The best mother I can be? Am I taking care of myself spiritually, physically, mentally, emotionally? These are things that, unfortunately, far too many of us cease to consider as we get older.
Santiago's heart tells him that hearts never stop speaking, they just get quieter. Eventually they even start to hope that we don't listen to them so that we aren't filled with sorrow at the realization that we never sought our Personal Legend. So take a moment (or two) today and think about this concept. Are you fulfilling your Personal Legend? If not, what keeps you from doing so? Is it worth the sacrifice?