The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho is an allegory to the pursuit of life! I consider the experience of rereading The Alchemist as the literary equal of rewatching a Miyazaki film in that I’ll discover something new to take away with every iteration.
In short, Coelho’s novel follows a shepherd boy named Santiago who drops everything from his homeland in Spain to go on a quest for treasure buried near the Egyptian pyramids. Along the way, Santiago encounters a slew of eccentric characters who guide him along his journey. No one knows what the treasure is, or if Santiago will prevail against all the twists and turns along his path. Our hero’s story starts out as a quest for worldly treasure, but soon turns into the discovery of the treasure found within. This story is an eternal testament to the transforming power of our dreams and the importance of listening to our hearts.
Favorite Quotes for Reflection
They come in search of new things, but when they leave they are basically the same people as they were when they arrived. – Pg. 11
People look outside of themselves in search of materials that would fulfill themselves, but in actuality we’ve always had everything within ourselves to feel whole. We are already enough.
It’s the possibility of having a dream come true that makes life interesting. – Pg. 13
Coelho is emphasizing that the core of life’s charm is rooted in its uncertainty and unpredictability. He explicitly imposes the word “possibility” as opposed to simply having the dream actualize.
…At a certain point in our lives, we lose control over what’s happening to us, and our lives become controlled by fate. That’s the world’s biggest lie. – Pg. 20
No matter what life flings at us, we always have a choice and we always have free will. We might not be able to control what happens, but we can control how we respond and react to circumstances.
If you start out by promising what you don’t even have yet, you’ll lose your desire to work towards getting it. – Pg. 27
In other words: over promise and over deliver.
You cannot trust a man if you don’t know his house. – Pg. 34
To have trust in a person is to have a firm belief in their reliability, character, and truth. All of which are impossible to gauge without knowing the person’s “house”: their culture, family, and history.
The secret of happiness is to see all the marvels of the world, and never to forget the drops of oil on the spoon. – Pg. 35
The secret to being happy is to be open to the world, while not neglecting your responsibilities.
When you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you achieve it. – Pg 43
If you really want something, you’re exhaust all your options to obtain it. This means working tirelessly and overcoming insurmountable obstacles. The process of trying will provide all the outside help needed to achieve your goals.
He was learning a lot of new things. Some of them were things that he already experienced, and weren’t really new, but that he had never perceived before. And he hadn’t perceived them because he had become accustomed to them. – Pg 46
We inherently have all the tools and resources needed to move through life. However, sometimes we need to step aside and look at things from a new perspective to really see things.
I’m afraid that if my dream is realized, I’ll have no reason to go on living… Not everyone can see his dreams come true in the same way. – Pg. 57
Some people are satisfied with where they land in life and we shouldn’t judge people for their decisions.
Every blessing ignored becomes a curse. – Pg 60
Life without risks will be filled with regret over untapped potential. Those who consciously ignore arising opportunities will have a constant “what if” cloud looming over them.
The closer one gets to realizing his Personal Legend, the more that Personal Legend becomes his true reason for being. – Pg 75
Your life’s purpose will be more coherent when you’re living aligned with your truth. And your purpose also takes on serves a bigger meaning in the broader scheme of things.
Intuition is really a sudden immersion of the soul into the universal current of life, where the histories of all people are connected, and we are able to know everything, because it’s all written there. – Pg 76
I’d like to argue that part of intuition is also biological. Years of evolution has passed down the genetics that allow us humans to sense and anticipate upcoming events. As a species, our histories are truly connected and to ignore our gut feeling is to deny generations of evolution.
I don’t live in either my past or my future. I’m interested only in the present. If you can concentrate always on the present, you’ll be a happy man. – Pg 87
Life happens in the now. If you linger in the past or worry about to future for extended periods you’ll end up missing life as it happens.
...these things have to be transmitted by word of mouth… things have to be transmitted this way because they were made up from the pure life, and this kind of life cannot be captured in pictures or words. – Pg 90
Some of life’s lessons are exclusively learned through firsthand experience.
If good things are coming, they will be a pleasant surprise. If bad things are, and you know in advance, you will suffer greatly before they even occur. – Pg 106
Be present and don’t worry about future things. Cluttering the mind by agonizing over things that have yet to happen will invite anxiety and spoil good fortune.
The secret is here in the present. If you pay attention to the present, you can improve upon it, And, if you improve on the present, what comes later will also be better. – Pg 106
To extrapolate on the previous quote, being present with what’s happening will enable us to alter the future.
One is loved because one is loved. No reason is needed for loving. – Pg 126
Love is unconditional 🙂
If what one finds is made of pure matter, it will never spoil. And one can always come back. If what you had found was only a moment of light, like the explosion of a star, you would find nothing on your return. – Pg 127
In the context of The Alchemist‘s hero, Santiago, his love for Fatima is pure. Which is a reminder that true love will never tarnish and can withstand some of life’s most tested challenges: time and distance. Surface level love dissipates.
Treason is a blow that comes unexpectedly. If you know your heart well, it will never be able to do that to you. Because you’ll know its dreams and wishes, and will know how to deal with them. – Pg 133-134
You’ll never be blindsided as long you as you’re self aware and remain in the present with yourself.
The fear of suffering is worse than the suffering itself. And that no heart has ever suffered when it goes in search of its dreams. – Pg 134
Sitting in inaction is waiting in Purgatory. Passivity is dreadful because the mind will find excuses not to take action, which allows anxiety and sluggishness to creep in. However, a detour towards our dreams will take us away from these sufferings.
Every search begins with beginner’s luck. And every search ends with the victor’s being severely tested. – Pg 137
As we begin the process of chasing our dream, the challenges and obstacles we encounter will progressively scale up with time and experience. The final battle will test us to see if we’ve mastered the lessons we’ve learned along the way.
When you posses great treasures within you, and try to tell others of them, seldom are you believed. – Pg 138
TL; DR: Haters gonna hate.
If a person is living out his Personal Legend, he knows everything he needs to know. There is only only thing that makes a dream impossible to achieve: the fear of failure. – Pg 146
Naturally, we all have within us what it takes to fulfill our destiny. Outside accolades and situational elements are not required. Being alive is all we need. But, if we let fear hold us in a torpor paralysis, we’ll never start and the dream will fade away.
The threat of death makes people a lot more aware of their lives. – Pg 147
Just like in the graphic novel, Daytripper by Fábio Moon and Gabriel Bá, mortality is a good reminder to be appreciative and present for the quiet moments that colors life with its magic.
When you are loved, you can do anything in creation. When you are loved, there’s no need at all to understand what’s happening, because everything happens within you. – Pg 152
Love is a powerful emotion that can motivate, empower, and ground you. When loves surrounds us anything can be accomplished. We’ll have everything we need. It won’t be necessary to reach outside for fulfillment.
Perhaps, love’s most compelling form is self-love. Self-love frees us from walking around with a chip on our shoulder and helps us navigate the world with a deeper level of compassion for others.
That’s what alchemist do. They show that, when we strive to become better than we are, everything around us becomes better, too. – Pg 155
A quote on leadership. When we work to become better versions of ourselves we also end up uplifting the world around us.
Everything that happens once can never happen again, But everything that happens twice will surly happen a third time. – Pg 161
This summarizes how habits form and stick with us.
No matter what he does, every person on earth plays a central role in the history of the world. And normally he doesn’t know. – Pg 163
Everyone has purpose and meaning in the grand scheme of life. No one is insignificant.
Where your treasure is, there also will be your heart… Be aware of the place where you are brought to tears. That’s where I am, and that’s where your treasure is. – Pg 164
The Alchemist is driving the notion of being open and present with your heart and soul. Our hearts will sing when we’re living in line with what we’re called to do. We just need to have the awareness to listen.
On the way towards realizing his own Personal Legend, he had learned all he needed to know, and had experience everything he might have dreamed of. – Pg 165
This is a more beautiful way to remind ourselves that success is in the journey and not in the destination.
What good is money to you if you’re going to die? It’s not often that money can save someone’s life.- Pg 167
In the pursuit of success and “making it”, we move in the direction of external validation. Money, clout, prestige, etc. None of those are useful when you’re dead. However, these externals shouldn’t be completely neglected as they can offer certain life-changing privileges towards yourself and others.