Monday, April 28, 2008


Paulo Coelho’s The Alchemist is a rather simple story. I think its genius lies in its simplicity. The story can be followed by child and adult alike, each one connecting with some aspect of the story and deriving some magical truth out of it.

The stories-within-the-story that captured my imagination the most included the one at the very beginning, ie the tale of Narcissus and the Lake. It’s such a funny statement on human nature. The idea that when each of us shows an interest in our fellow human, it is often a selfish interest is true, and sad in a funny way. Is it possible for a Narcissus to recognize the lake for its beauty, and for its generosity in sustaining various life forms or is he bound to only see his reflection when he peers at the lake’s surface? What of the lake? Does it not notice the vain, insecure man before it? How can the lake’s sole interest be the admiration of its reflection in Narcissus’s eyes? I hope I’m not as cynical as the one who coined and related that tale; I’m one of those who would like to believe that we all have a lot more to offer to the world than mere self-absorption.

I was enchanted by the shepherd, Santiago’s conversation with the wind and with the sun, maybe because it reminded me of the stories my grandparents used to tell me. These were stories in which humans and animals communed with nature and with the elements and learned lessons from them. It takes quite an imagination to dream up a conversation between a shepherd and the wind about love, and a parallel conversation between the shepherd and the sun. Who would have thought that the sun’s love for the earth was what kept the two attracted to each other, but also prevented them from coming any closer to each other?

The greatest lesson taught by this story is, I think, the transformative power of love. True love transforms people and those around them, making them better human beings. Alchemy places an emphasis on the process of transformation rather than on the end product of that transformation. It basically tells us that to get to our destination, we have to make a journey. It is that journey that is important, the destination is more like a secondary consideration.

I’m pondering on the wisdoms in this book and trying to connect them with life experience, or even with something like involvement in social activism or in the TakingITGlobal community. In our interaction with each other in the TIG community, we learn different things about each other and the knowledge we gain transforms us and makes us want to be better world citizens. Perhaps our interactions there can be likened to alchemy?

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This essay is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 3.0 Unported License. Please feel free to use my writing for non-commercial purposes and do credit my name Rose Kahendi as the writer.

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