The Alchemist, a manual of motivation

Farooq Mohammad dives deep into Paulo Coelho’s masterpiece

What if I told you about the book that can help you pursue and materialize your dreams? And what if I told you that this book is also recommended by some of the most highly influential people in the world e.g. Bill Clinton? Wouldn’t you be interested in reading that book?

Well. The book is The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho, which was first, published in Portuguese in 1988, and in 1993 appeared in English translation. More than 65 million copies of the book have been sold around the world. It has also been translated into numerous languages (including Urdu).

The Spanish shepherd and the protagonist of the novel namely Santiago dreams of a hidden treasure in Egyptian Pyramids. And just like any other human being, he is too psyched up by an unusual dream.

Filled with excitement and confusion, he tells his dream to a gypsy woman who predicts the future. Realizing the peculiarity of his dream, she asks him to give one-tenth of the treasure to her if he discovers it. Santiago, then, encounters an old king who also pushes him into materializing his dream i.e. to travel to Egypt to get his dream true. He tells Santiago “if you want something in life then all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it”. Just as the old man says to Santiago that believing in determinism is “the world’s greatest lie”, Santiago, awestruck by his words, laces his shoes up and heads to Egypt.

The idea of pursuing one’s dream is recurrent in the novel. If someone doesn’t go after his dreams, he is clearly wasting the precious gift of ‘struggle’ bestowed upon him by God. The book emphasizes the realization of one’s Personal Legend i.e. the ultimate purpose of life. If you haven’t figured it out yet, do it right now!

As the story moves on, Santiago finds himself in a predicament after being robbed of all his money in Tangier (a city of Morocco). Undeterred, he starts working in a glass shop, mustering up new ideas to thrive in the business. His determination is unstoppable; he has decided to transmute his dream into reality. His successful entry into the business has amazed his boss, who doesn’t want him to leave the business. But fate has other plans for him; he accumulates enough money so as to reach Egypt.

The book is filled with wondrous passages, which not only coerce us to appreciate it but also stir in us a desire to chase our dreams. The way Santiago manifests equanimity is tremendous. Most people lose hope after a few setbacks in their lives but this book advises you to remain steadfast even if you have to crawl. If one sees that things aren’t going the right way, one has to remain patient as without patience there is nothing to grasp.
On the way to Egypt, Santiago encounters an Englishman who happens to know the whereabouts of an alchemist. On learning that the alchemist possesses the Elixir of Life (that is the cure of all the diseases), Santiago’s curiosity is aroused and he desperately wants to reach out to that master. While he is at the oasis, he falls in love with a girl namely, Fatima who reciprocates his love. Unfortunately, he has to leave her for his destiny’s sake, but only for the time being as he vows to return. As he meets the alchemist, Santiago is further encouraged by the master who tells him that there is a language apart from the language of words. That is the Soul of the world!

While trekking in the desert, they’re captured by a group of men who threaten to kill them but the alchemist proscribes them to do so. The alchemist tells the men that if they attacked them, Santiago, then, would turn into a windstorm and pulverize them. On hearing it, Santiago becomes upset as he doesn’t know how to turn himself into the wind but the alchemist advises him to get a grip and give it a try. What the alchemist wants is to dig out Santiago’s dormant capabilities and he successfully does it. Santiago does turn himself into the wind and freaks the hell out of the crew, who then, let them go. Finally, Santiago reaches his destiny i.e. Egypt, but on reaching there he gets to know from a man that the actual treasure lies in the place from where he began his journey i.e. Spain. He instantly experiences an epiphany and rushes back to Spain where he finally gets his treasure. He also meets Fatima, his lover, in the end.

The novel, however, is kind of a fable but what distinguishes it from other books is that the themes of love, pursuing one’s dreams and determination are extraordinarily woven in it. The reader might think that it is the story of a boy finding his treasure, which is to some extent true, but that isn’t only what the book offers. It offers you a recipe for finding your Personal Legend. It tells you that giving up on your purpose is a waste of life. You might get stuck in your struggle or you may have to do the things in your life which you think aren’t of your taste but who knows what fruits will such things bear.

The Alchemist is also prominent for its theme of distinguished love. It negates the idea of romantic love being the central thing in your life yet it doesn’t deny the power love has in one’s life. Because the man has much more to do than just falling in love and that is knowing himself. When you know yourself and achieve what your soul is looking for, you metamorphose into a tower of success, so to speak. Haven’t sorted out who you are? Then it might be the right time too!

Of all the important themes of the novel, ‘consistency in pursuing one’s dream’ stands at the top and this is around what the novel revolves. Doesn’t ‘consistency in struggle’ remind you of the famous story of King Brutus and the spider? Who, on seeing the spider successfully reaching its cobweb after a couple of attempts, managed to defeat his enemies. If you’re struggling in your life, then keep trying. Just as, after learning the language of the world, Santiago manages to turn himself into the wind, you can do wonders in your life. Demoralization due to the problems of life is highly detrimental as problems are a part of life; they’re to be tackled and not to be discouraged by. Who knows what lies ahead! This is exactly what the book propounds. Once you decide to remain firm, the whole universe becomes your partner in attaining your life goal.
I’m convinced you’ll discover the truth of Napoleon Hill’s observation:
“It doesn’t matter how slowly you go as long as you do not stop”.

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