autumn's garden

Writing about what I am learning – summed up best by Paul Newman: "If you have a pulse, you have a purpose."

Oprah Sucked Me In

I taped back-to-back episodes of her interview with Paul Coelho, author of The Alchemist, a book residing on the NYT’s bestseller list for over 330 weeks! (Plot Summary, Spark Notes) According to others on the show, this book has changed the direction of many, many people’s lives, including Oprah and Bill Clinton – giving them the courage to follow their heart’s desires and succeed in accomplishing great and wonderful things.

Mr. Coelho said he wrote The Alchemist in only two weeks in 1987. He told Oprah, what was also noted in Wikipedia’s article about the book, . . . he was able to write at this pace because the story was “already written in [his] soul”.

 He did not acknowledge, nor did Oprah question the assertion that,

“The basic story of The Alchemist appears in previous works. In 1935, the Argentine writer, Jorge Luis Borges, published a short story called Tale of Two Dreamers in which two men dream of the other’s treasure. Another version appeared in E. W. Lane’s translation of The Thousand and One Nights. The story also appeared in Rumi‘s story, “In Baghdad, Dreaming of Cairo: In Cairo, Dreaming of Baghdad”. (Wiki on The Alchemist)

I have not read the novel. However, the interview’s emphases on a few quotes, not the plot, piqued my curiosity. I wanted to hear and see a writer whose words have inspired so many. He is intelligent, engaging and humble; the two-hour interview revolved around the meaning of these few quotations, such as,

  • “And, when you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it.”
  • “Don’t give in to your fears. If you do, you won’t be able to talk to your heart.”

Skimming other quotes from the novel, I wondered at Mr. Coelho’s ability to weave the wisdom of so many proverbs into a work of words that goads so many to their own personal greatness. (Quotes from the Alchemist) Even as I could see their wisdom, “Yes, but . . . ” bubbled up. As some one note: Every proverb has an equal and an opposite proverb! (Attribution)

As I listened to the conversation between him and Oprah, I thought about dashed desires – dreams the impersonal universe turned upside down and backward – hearts broken because of illness and failure – but not from lack of courage or trying. What of these brave but broken hearts?

I listened — but didn’t hear hope for the hurting. From the corner of this autumn’s garden, talking to my heart is an easier conversation when I use the psalmist’s words:

  • Why are you downcast, O my soul? (Psalms 42 and 43)
  • Magnify the Lord with me, and let us exalt His name together. (Psalm 34) Don’t fret because of evildoers; don’t envy the wicked. Don’t be angry! Trust in the Lord and do good. (Psalm 37)

And Solomon offers ever wise counsel in his proverbs, though some may appear contradictory: Trust in the Lord — Don’t lean on your own understanding! (Proverbs 3:3-5)

Congratulations Mr. Coelho on a quarter-century run! And thanks to Oprah for snagging a unique interview.

But special thanks to God who lifts my head – and urges me to keep writing, and reading when the universe seems uninterested in helping me, or when fear, failure, and discouragement paralyze my heart.

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