The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho fascinates me every time I read it. Somehow, it’s not just a book. Coehlo practiced his own alchemy in writing this fable. Santiago, only named on the first page, follows his dreams (the kind when sleeping) on a journey to uncover hidden treasure buried in the Egyptian pyramids.
Every time I’m on the precipice of making a life-altering decision, I read The Alchemist. I always find the answer I need between its pages, even though the question is always different.
Sometimes I didn’t even know I had a question.
10 Quotations from The Alchemist
In the prologue, Coelho recalls the Myth of Narcissus. Instead of ending the story with Narcissus’ death, it takes a moment to consider Narcissus’ pond, where he spent his days ogling his own reflection. The pond’s response when asked about Narcissus’ beauty:
“I weep for Narcissus, but I never noticed that Narcissus was beautiful. I weep because each time he knelt beside my banks, I could see, in the depths of his eyes, my own beauty reflected.”
We bring ourselves into everything we do, read, see. Every experience we connect to a part of our lives… or we forget it. Coelho basically states the reader will find himself on the same quest as Santiago. I believe that’s why he’s only named on the first page. After given a name, it is not reinforced for the reader, allowing him/her to slowly slip into Santiago’s shoes with every turning page.
“Does a man’s heart always help him?” the boy asked the Alchemist.
“Mostly just the hearts of those who are trying to realize their Personal Legends. But they do help children, drunkards, and the elderly, too.”
Even the universe somehow manages to care for its weakest members. I’ve often contemplated why “drunkards” are included. I think they’ve made the list because many alcoholics are trying to wash away something their hearts just can’t handle. Is this the universe’s way of showing guilt?
“The secret of happiness is to see all the marvels of the world, and never to forget the drops of oil on the spoon.”
Remember who you are and where you came from as you keep your focus on the goal. Enjoy what the world has to offer, but never forget your responsibilities. Everything is a paradox, but we must all manage to find that middle ground.
“Not everyone can see his dreams come true in the same way.”
If we all wanted the same things in life this world would be so very boring.
“Maktub-It is written.”
Somewhere in between fate and freewill, there are universal truths, laws that guide the universe. Call it karma, the physics of metaphysics, it’s momentum and gravity, occupying space, force and impact: what goes around, comes around. The idea that every action has an equal and opposite reaction, inaction breeds inaction, and energy begets energy, all hold true, even if we’re unaware of what the universe considers equal and opposite.
“When you want something, all the world conspires to help you achieve it.”
Beginner’s luck, the law of favorability, whatever we call it, when we attempt something new, the universe eggs us on. I believe it’s her way of letting us know we should keep trying new things.
“He was actually two hours closer to his treasure… the fact that two hours had stretched into an entire year didn’t matter.”
Perspective is often the difference between winning and losing the only battles that matter, which are usually with ourselves.
“There is a universal language understood by everybody, but already forgotten.”
The more we analyze, the less we know. Words begin to fill the gaps once left to observation, and the harder we try to label things and explain them, the less the next generations spend just witnessing the miracles around them every day. When Shakespeare pondered if a rose by any other name would smell as sweet, he captured the essence of this concept. Just because Newton brought gravity to our attention doesn’t mean it didn’t exist prior to having a name.
“When you possess great treasures within you, and try to tell others of them, seldom are you believed.”
Galileo is a stellar example of a person with a great treasure of knowledge who not only wasn’t believed, but also condemned for thinking there just has to be more than this.
“…anyone who interferes with the Personal Legend of another thing never will discover his own.”
It just makes sense that if you’re too busy sticking your nose in other people’s lives, you may discover other people’s lives have occupied the time you had to pursue your own desires.
After replacing my classroom copy of The Alchemist at least a dozen times, I don’t hesitate to replace it year after year. I never ask for it back either. My multiple copies are getting more and more difficult to navigate; I believe the only thing left outside of a highlighter or underline is the word “the”. Because of this, it was difficult to pick only 10 quotations. The beauty of discovering the answers to life’s secrets revealed by The Alchemist are in how the individual interprets its “omens”. While reading the book may take a little longer than flipping over a Magic 8 Ball, I’ll give you a dollar if you find no value in its messages.
The first time reading The Alchemist, it’s easy to enjoy the simple fable of a boy on a quest for treasure, but the next time you pick it up, the story won’t be as simple. As with alchemy, somehow the book becomes more and more valuable with each reading. I highly recommend it. But even if you never read the book, this sampling of quotations from The Alchemist are worth pondering.
Coelho, Paulo. The Alchemist.