Alchemist Author : paulo coelho Originally published : 08 march 2011 Santiago is a shepherd. He loves his flock, though he can’t help but notice the limited nature of the sheep’s existence. Seeking only food and water, they never lift their heads to admire the green hills or the sunsets.
Santiago’s parents have continually struggled for the basics of life and have smothered their own ambitions accordingly. They live in beautiful Andalucía, which attracts tourists to its quaint villages and rolling hills, but for them it is not a place of dreams.Santiago, on the other hand, can read and wants to travel. He goes into town one day to sell some of his flock and encounters a tramp-king and a gypsy woman. They urge him to ‘follow his omens’ and leave the world he knows. The gypsy points him toward the pyramids of Egypt, where she says he will find treasure.Crazily, he believes her, sells his flock and sets sail. A thief in Tangier robs him of his savings.
So much hard work and discipline for a little adventure! But, strangely, Santiago is not devastated, apprehending a greater feeling: the security of knowing he is on the right path. He is now living a different life, in which every day is new and satisfying. This belief is a marvellous one, a support for anyone embarking on an important project.
But is it a hope based on nothing? If you think about the energy you put into something once you are committed to it, probably not. The ‘universe conspiring’ to give you what you want is, more precisely, a reflection of your determination to make something happen. The Alchemist (1993) does not get away from the fact that dreams have a price but, as Coelho has said in interviews, not living your dreams also has a price. For the same money, he said, you can either buy a horrible jacket that does not fit or one that suits you and looks right. It is better to have problems that make sense because they are part of what you are trying to achieve.
Santiago’s dilemma is about the conflict between love and personal dreams. Too often we see a love relationship as the meaning of our life but the obsession with romantic coupling can cut us off from a life more connected with the rest of the world. Surely the heart has needs? Live your life around the dream, Coelho says, and there will be more ‘heart’ in your life than you can comprehend Much of self-help literature is about pursuing our destiny, but dreams do not alwayspull us along; they speak persistently but quietly, and it does not take much effort to smother the inner voices. Who is willing to risk comfort, routine, security and existing relationships to follow something that to others looks like a mirage? It takes courage, and dog-eared, stained copies of Coelho’s classic have become the constant companion of people who need to make fearless decisions daily to keep true to a larger vision.