The Alchemist: chemistry of motivation

Paulo Coelho’s The Alchemist (1998) has been received alike by the readers and the critiques. This masterpiece intricately explores the meaninglessness of life as well as gives cure to it. Dreams are what makes us human and perusing own dream is what keeps us alive. Jabir Misbah reviews the classic.
Cover of The Alchemist (1998).Finding the purpose of life is considered to be one of the sacred most callings of this generation. To leap out into the unknown world, face challenges and overcome them is one of best ways to leave a mark on the world and remember life with a smile in old age. Paulo Coelho’s international best seller The Alchemist tells the same story to the readers in a deep and mystified manner.

‘ People are capable, at any time of their lives, of doing what they dream of.’

The book was first published in 1998, by a Brazilian author, Paulo Coelho. It was originally written in Portuguese, but, later on, was translated into over 80 languages to become an international best seller. The book has a perfect mixture of magic, wisdom, fiction and wonder all cramped into 163 pages, to give the reader the experience of a lifetime. The story has had a film made in its honour, while theaters across the globe continue to host plays every now and then, even one was staged in Dhaka last month. Having sold around 100 million copies worldwide, its place on New York’s best sellers list is in no manner a dupe.

If you haven’t read it yet, the plot sets off with the adventures of a young boy named Santiago. His parents wanted him to become a priest and learn the ways of God, but ever since his childhood, he was interested in learning from the world and discovering himself in the process. With this idea on his mind, he sets out to seek his purpose, leaving his flock of sheep and family behind. On this journey, he meets multiple characters who share stories of wisdom and teach Santiago the glory of the journey that he is on. He finds love, meaningful purpose and countless memories to carry back to his home.

Throughout his journey, Santiago has been given a plethora of lessons, the initial of them being the sufferings of people who don’t go after their purpose of life. At a young age, everyone finds out the goal they have to reach to find their meaning in life. At that age, the young person is never scared to dream, and he knows that everything is possible. But as time rolls on, the bonds of society, financial instability and other reasons begin to convince them that it would be impossible to fulfill their dream.

The first lesson he learned was about individuals who don’t pursue their own personal legends. The king told him that everyone, when they are young, knows what their personal legend is. He states, ‘At that point in their lives, everything is clear and everything is possible. They are not afraid to dream, and to yearn for everything they would like to see happen to them in their lives. But, as time passes, a mysterious force begins to convince them that it will be impossible for them to realize their Personal Legend’. The second lesson that the story tells Santiago and the reader goes by, ‘My heart is afraid that it will have to suffer,’ the boy tells the alchemist one night as they looked up at the moonless sky. The alchemist replies, ‘Tell your heart that 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, because every second of the search is a seconds’ encounter with God and Eternity’. This lesson teaches the reader the aftermath of the first, that one should not be scared to go out and chase his dreams, as not chasing the dreams might bring much more sorrow than failing to achieve the end goal.

My personal favourite part of the book was the story of the crystal merchant, where Santiago was stuck for months on end, due to being robbed. The merchant himself had his personal calling of going to Mecca to see the ‘Kaaba House’, but he never went up to do so. He shares his wisdom in a fabled manner, by portraying that to him the thought of going to Mecca is what keeps him driving his life on and on, and if he fulfills it now, he won’t have that purpose leading him on anymore. However, Santiago teaches this man the innovative ways of his business and how everyday can be new and how he can go towards the goal of life. This proves to be a source of motivation and sadness to the merchant, who sees the young passion in Santiago’s heart and realises the horizon of possibilities that he could have taken.

‘When you sell a man a book you don’t sell him just 12 ounces of paper and ink and glue, you sell him a whole new life,’ Christopher Morley’s quote perfectly describes what the book means to me, as I read Paulo Coelho’s The Alchemist with a star struck eyes, marveling at the beauty of the different places that Santiago goes and the depth of the wisdom that he is given. It served as a source of motivation and inspiration to me, at a time when I needed it the most.

The book is a must read for any young individual who is thinking of the purpose of his life, it will be relatable to every such reader. As Santiago has learnt the lessons of chasing one’s own dream, any reader will be able to learn the same as well. Anyone who gets discouraged or wants to have high motivation can turn the pages of the book, whilst thinking- ‘And when you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you achieve it’.

Jabir Misbah is a story-teller and knowledge enthusiast.

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