The Alchemist DB 37602 by Paulo Coelho is a tale of self-determination, discovery, and most importantly, treasure.
Wait, maybe I’ve got those mixed up…
Anyways, this short but poignant allegorical story was written by Paulo Coelho in 1988, and although it had the most modest of success at first (dropped by its original publisher as a flop), it was picked back up by an optimist with a debt wish and has grown into a modern classic, translated into dozens of languages, and has touched the hearts of readers across the globe.
Our hero Santiago, a shepherd from Andalusia, dreams of treasure. While he considers whether or not to follow this dream, he meets helpful mentors along the way who introduce him to the idea of discovering your Personal Legend. He learns that in order to be satisfied, you must continue against adversity to fulfill that legend—whether that adversity be danger and pain, or the lull of safety, comfort, and romance. He follows the path as he sees it develop before him. This journey leads him across the ocean and into the desert, which inevitably brings adventure, challenges, and discovery. He learns to listen to his heart and his surroundings in order to understand what he wants, and importantly, what he must do to get it. When he falls in love with Fatima, a woman of the desert, he questions his decision to continue his pursuit. She encourages him to continue on while she waits for him to satisfy his legend, with sage-like wisdom that if he does not finish his journey, their love will be tainted.
Okay, that’s all well and good, but from the perspective of this reader, Santiago’s journey left me with a few modern-day questions.
- Is the pursuit of one’s destiny destined to leave a partner waiting?
- Do relationships have to have one Santiago role, and one Fatima role?
- What if two partners both want to pursue their personal legends? Whose legend takes precedent?
- In this model, the man adventures, while the woman waits. I know my personal legend doesn’t resemble Fatima’s. Is this book for me?
I recommend The Alchemist as a good soul-searching read, that encourages discovery, adventure, and listening to your heart. The next step of the puzzle, as I see it, is how to encourage someone else’s personal legend without compromising your own. It seems that lesson will have to come from another book. And that book, when I find it, will certainly be a treasure.