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Quotes from the Masters: Paulo Coelho

June 16, 2013

paulo coelho

“When we least expect it, life sets us a challenge to test our courage and willingness to change; at such a moment, there is no point in pretending that nothing has happened or in saying that we are not yet ready. The challenge will not wait. Life does not look back. A week is more than enough time for us to decide whether or not to accept our destiny.”
― Paulo CoelhoThe Devil and Miss Prym

My introduction to the writing of Paulo Coelho was through reading the alchemist. I was quite young at the time, and I skimmed through it quite quickly, expecting it to get to a point that never seemed to arrive. The problem was not in the writing, but in the way I was approaching the reading of it, as I have since discovered. An apparently simple story on the surface conceals depths of spiritual insight and wisdom, clearly gleaned from his personal experiences of life. It gives his writing an authenticity, when you start to appreciate it properly, that much writing is lacking.

When reading Paulo Coelho, you cannot just skim through the pages. In order to get something from it you need to stop and think from time to time while reading, and apply the things beings talked about to your own life situation. This first quote is a good example. To someone just skimming through it could seem like a series of platitudes or clichés about grabbing opportunities in life when they arise. But when you think it through you realize the meaning being conveyed. Opportunities in life arise in such a way that we often have to make a decision there and then or quite quickly. Why is this? Because it is in our impulsive decisions in these cases that we reveal the direction we truly want to take in life. If we always need too much time to think things over then we are rejecting the opportunity, tacitly. We are saying it is not something we are willing to commit to. We are not willing to be changed and effected by it, we want to stay as we are and have been in the past. We are keeping it at arms length, and not accepting the destiny it may offer to us.

We do not therefore get off free, because only so many opportunities arise for us, and our lives our only so long. Also, the more opportunities we reject, or hold back from, the more timid we become about any opportunities, and the more likely we are to become fixed in our ways, accepting a fate, rather than choosing a destiny.

“She had just realized there were two things that prevent us from achieving our dreams: believing them to be impossible or seeing those dreams made possible by some sudden turn of the wheel of fortune, when you least expected it. For at that moment, all our fears suddenly surface: the fear of setting off along a road heading who knows where, the fear of a life full of new challenges, the fear of losing forever everything that is familiar.”
― Paulo CoelhoThe Devil and Miss Prym

This develops further the concept of destiny and how fear can get in our way at these crucial times.

Finally, the other crucial aspect of embracing destiny is the ability to let go of our past:

“That is why it is so important to let certain things go. To release them. To cut loose. People need to understand that no one is playing with marked cards; sometimes we win and sometimes we lose. Don’t expect to get anything back, don’t expect recognition for your efforts, don’t expect your genius to be discovered or your love to be understood. Complete the circle. Not out of pride, inability or arrogance, but simply because whatever it is no longer fits in your life. Close the door, change the record, clean the house, get rid of the dust. Stop being who you were and become who you are.”
― Paulo CoelhoThe Zahir

I have chosen quotes from The Zahir and The Devil and Miss Prym, as these are the stories that originally inspired my interest in the writings of Paulo Coelho. The importance of them I am only now beginning to realize looking back. It is so easy to be crippled by our fears or to give in and accept our habitual way of acting. But this isn’t the spiritual way. The spiritual way is not to be passive in the face of our fate, but to be active and to choose our destiny.  The writings of Paulo Coelho are a great guide on a journey of this kind. But they are only a guide, and that is a key point. Don’t expect answers from Paulo Coelho. He can help guide you towards the correct path, the authentic way for you to live, the spiritually healthy way to live, but you still have to make the decision to choose, and walk along that path.

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One Comment
  1. Jim Brennan permalink

    How true. Unless you are willing to change, everything will remain the same

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