Sunday, June 10, 2007

The Alchemist

The Alchemist is an easy book to finish in one sitting. Only 172 pages, but packed with profound thoughts. That's nothing unusual seeing that this is a work of Paulo Coelho.

What is an alchemist? I had this question when I first saw the title of the book. According to Merriam-Webster Dictionary, an alchemist is a person who practices alchemy (Me, duh!). Which then brings me to further check on the definition of 'alchemy'.

1: a medieval chemical science and speculative philosophy aiming to achieve the transmutation of the base metals into gold, the discovery of a universal cure for disease, and the discovery of a means of indefinitely prolonging life;
2: a power or process of transforming something common into something special;
3: an inexplicable or mysterious transmuting.

Now that I know what an alchemist is (still not very clear, but it's a good start), I set myself to begin reading.

This is a story of Santiago, a boy who dreams of travelling the world to seek his treasure. To do so, one way is to tend sheeps, so he became a shepherd. Along the way, he met with a few characters, both good and bad. He had an encounter with the gypsy woman who inteprets dreams, an old man who is actually Melchizedek the king of Salem, a thief, a crystal merchant, an Englishman who is looking for the alchemist, Fatima who is the love of his life, and ultimately the alchemist. All his experiences thoughout the journey prepared him for his quest.

"When you want something, all the universe conspires to help you achieve it" seems to be the main theme of the story.

This is another book that requires open-minded reading (especially Christians) because it has elements of philosophy, magic, religion and spirituality. There are Bible verses sprinkled throughout the story, but with no direct mention of it. If you read your Bible, you can spot them without any difficulties. I am not going ga-ga over this book, but it's nice to check out what the fuss is all about.

Some thoughtful lines from The Alchemist:

This was when the boy suggested to the crystal merchant whom he worked for, to branch out into selling tea in crystal glasses, and they launched into a dialogue about changing their way of life and the reluctance to do so. What the merchant said triggered a switch in me -- that I hope I will not be complacent and be adverse to change. Sometimes, it takes another person to bring out that realization in us.

"Today, I understand something I didn't see before: every blessing ignored becomes a curse. I don't want anything else in life. But you are forcing me to look at wealth and at horizons I never known. Now that I have seen them, and now that I see how immense my possibilities are, I'm going to feel worse than I did before you arrived. Because I know the things I should be able to accomplish, and I don't want to do so."

And, this was when the boy pondered on the decisions he had made when he first set out to look for his treasure.

"... making a decision was only the beginning of things. When someone makes a decision, he is really diving into a strong current that will carry him to places he had never dreamed of when he first made the decision."