Monday, October 08, 2007

The Alchemist - Paulo Coelho

I was just in Borders with my son buying him some books he had to have tonight, when I saw The Alchemist on a shelf near the front of the store. I read that book for the first time last month. I thought it was wonderful, but for some reason it never occurred to me to write about it here. I suppose it was because I was in a strange place, both literally and figuratively speaking, when I read it.

I had agreed to house-sit and pet-sit for a friend while he was away for a week or so around Labor Day. The first night I was at his place, which is a beautiful rural property that's rather isolated, my mother passed away in Georgia. For the next week, I was alone with the dog and the cat and a lot of books. And it was a very peaceful and introspective time for me. I read some novels as a treat to myself, and then I started reading what was lying about the house. The Alchemist was sitting on a stack of books. I was lucky to be in the home of a reader and there were books everywhere. So I picked it up on my way to the hot tub one evening. It's a slim volume and an easy read, so a couple of nights in the hot tub, with a fair number of Coronas, in the middle of a pastoral setting under a setting September sun was ample time to read it cover to cover.

If I had to pinpoint one thing that resonated with me the most, it was about listening to one's own heart. That sounds a bit pat, but it doesn't in the context of the book - which is a parable. The book also talks about "living your own Personal Legend" which for me immediately conjured up images of Don Quixote. I remembered vividly working on the show "Man of LaMancha" the summer after my freshman year in college and for days I kept hearing all the songs from that show running through my head.

The book deserves to be the bestseller that it is. It speaks in simple terms of simple truths that most of us seem unable to comprehend - much less live. And life is a quest. For some of us, it's a quest filled with drama (complete with a Greek chorus, sets and costumes.) There are those of us who knew from the beginning we would not lead "lives of quiet desperation" that Thoreau recognized among "the mass of men." But if not the life lived as the masses do, then what?

It's a thought provoking book. And like other books of its kind, it will truly impact only those with open minds who seek to understand and learn. That's not everyone.

As it has been with other books that I've read that made a deep impression, I will remember the place and circumstance of my reading this book as much as the book itself. I keep listening to my heart and wondering if I can believe what it tells me. Right now I think maybe it's in the wrong location. And in real estate, it's all about location, location, location . . .

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