Archives for June 2007

Veronika Decides to Die by Alice Teh

veronika.jpg I have finished reading yet another book, Veronika Decides to Die by Paulo Coelho. I liked this one a lot more than the last two I read: The Alchemist and Like the Flowing River.

Veronika Decides to Die (1998) is one of the three books in the trilogy And on the Seventh Day. The first book is By the River Piedra I Sat Down and Wept (1994) and the concluding one which is The Devil and Miss Prym (2000).

Veronika, like the other two books, is concerned with a week in the life of ordinary people who are suddenly confronted with love, death and power. To quote Coelho, he said this: “I have always believed that in the lives of individuals, just as in society at large, the profoundest changes take place within a very reduced time frame.” This is exactly what happened in the story of this girl.

Veronika, young at the age of 24, is suicidal but she has no reason to take her own life. She has a family that loves her, friends who support her, and has a steady job at the library in Ljubljana, Slovenia. She is also good looking. One day, she decides to end it all. Downing four packets of sleeping pills, she slips into a slow and painful death, but she did not die. She ends up in Villete, a famous hospital for the mentally ill. When she awakens from her coma, the doctor said she has only a few days to live. Her heart had suffered irreversible damage.

Veronika is stucked between life and death, sanity and madness. There in Villete, she found the companionship of Zedka, a thirty-something woman who suffers from depression; Mari, a 65-year old former lawyer who suffers from fear and panic attacks; and Eduard, the son of an ambassor diagnosed as schizophrenic, whom she later developed feelings for. Coelho gives enough background to these characters to understand why they ended up where they were.

Her presence in the hospital triggered some sort of hope in these people, and they too caused her to question the definition of insanity or madness. Who are the mad ones? Those in Villete or outside? Through it all, she develops a will to live and love, but she knows she will die in a matter of days. Also responsible in that realization is Dr Igor, and that realization reveals itself at the end of the story. Watch out for the twist.

Both Veronika and Eduard have something in common: The passion for their chosen vocation were not realized, or rather, what they wanted to do did not receive the consent of their parents. Veronika wanted to be a pianist while Eduard a painter. (This is somewhat similar to Coelho’s situation when he told his parents he wanted to become a writer, and he was admitted by his parents to an asylum.)

It is an interesting book in the sense that it brings you into the world of the supposedly mad people. There are, as usual, philosophical and religious elements in Coelho’s work.

This article is written by Alice Teh( www dot aliceteh dot com )

The importance of knowing names

By Paulo Coelho

Zilu asked Confucius:

‘If King Wen were to ask you to govern the country, what would your first action be?’

‘I would learn the names of my advisers.’

‘What nonsense! That is hardly a matter of great concern to a prime minister.’

‘A man cannot hope to receive help from what he does not know,’ replied Confucius. ‘If he does not understand Nature, he will not understand God. In just the same way, if he does not know who is at his side, he will have no friends. Without friends, he will be unable to draw up a plan. Without a plan, he cannot direct anyone’s actions. Without direction, the country will plunge into darkness, and even dancers will not know which foot to put down next. So an apparently banal action – learning the name of the person at your side – can make an enormous difference. The besetting sin of our time is that everyone wants to put things right immediately, and they forget that in order to do so you need a lot of people.’

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Paulo Coelho in Cannes

Newsletter : Issue 148 is on-line

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Paulo Coelho talks in SECC in Glasgow (18.04.07)

An Evening with Paulo Coelho – Part One of Eleven

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El Greco and light

By Paulo Coelho

One pleasant spring afternoon, a friend went to visit the painter El Greco. To his surprise, he found him in his studio with all the curtains closed.

El Greco was working on a painting which had as its central theme the Virgin Mary, and he was using only a single candle to light the room. His bemused friend commented:

‘I had always been told that painters need sunlight in order to select the right colours. Why don’t you draw the curtains?’

‘Not now,’ said El Greco. ‘That would disturb the brilliant fire of inspiration inflaming my soul and filling everything around me with light.’

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Pleasure and the tongue

By Paulo Coelho

A Zen master was resting with one of his disciples. At one point, he took a melon out of his bag and cut it in two so that both could eat it.

While they were eating, the disciple said:

‘Wise master, since everything you do has a meaning, perhaps your sharing this melon with me is a sign that you have something to teach me.’

The master continued eating in silence.

‘Your silence obviously conceals a question,’ the disciple insisted, ‘and it must be this: does the pleasure I am experiencing in eating this delicious fruit reside in the melon or in my tongue?’

The master said nothing. The disciple went on excitedly:

‘And since everything in life has meaning, I think I am close to finding the answer to that question: the pleasure is an act of love and interdependence between us, because without the melon there would be no object of pleasure and without my tongue…’

‘That’s enough!’ said the master. ‘The real fools are those who think themselves terribly intelligent and spend all their time trying to interpret everything. The melon is delicious, and that’s enough, now let me eat in peace!’

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The middle path

By Paulo Coelho

The monk Lucas, accompanied by a disciple, was walking through a village. An old man asked the monk:

‘Holy man, how do I become closer to God?’

‘Enjoy yourself more, and praise the Creator with your joy,’ came the reply.

The two men were about to walk on when a young man approached them. He asked:

‘What should I do in order to become closer to God?’

‘Spend less time merely enjoying yourself,’ said Lucas.

When the young man left, the disciple remarked:

‘You don’t seem very sure whether we should enjoy ourselves or not.’

‘The spiritual search is a bridge with no handrail built across an abyss,’ replied Lucas. ‘If someone is walking very close to the right side, I say: “To the left!” If they go too close to the left side, I say: “To the right!” It is the extremes that divert us from the Path.’

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Edií§í£o nº 148: Meditaí§í£o andando

Chego a Santiago de Compostela, desta vez de carro, para celebrar minha peregrinaí§í£o há vinte anos. Quando estava Puente La Reina, veio a idéia de fazer tardes de autógrafos sem grandes preparaí§íµes: bastava telefonar para a próxima cidade onde deverí­amos dormir, pedir que colocassem um cartaz na livraria local, e estaria ali na hora marcada.
Funcionou magnificamente nas pequenas aldeias, embora exigindo um pouco mais de organizaí§í£o em grandes cidades, como a própria Santiago de Compostela. Tive um contato inesperado com os leitores, e aprendi que coisas feitas com amor podem ter o improviso como um grande aliado.
Santiago estava agora diante de mim. E algumas dezenas de kms mais adiante, o Oceano Atlí¢ntico. Mas estou decidido a seguir adiante com as tais tardes de autógrafos improvisadas, já que pretendo ficar noventa dias fora de casa.
E como ní£o pretendo atravessar o oceano neste momento, devo ir para a direita (Santander, Pais Basco) ou esquerda (Guimarí£es, Portugal)?
Melhor deixar que o destino escolha: minha mulher e eu entramos em um bar, e perguntamos a um homem que está tomando um café: direita ou esquerda? Ele diz com convicí§í£o que devemos seguir í  esquerda – talvez pensando que nos referí­amos a partidos polí­ticos.
Telefono para o meu editor portuguíªs. Ele ní£o pergunta que loucura é essa, ní£o reclama de avisá-lo em cima da hora. Duas horas mais tarde me chama, diz que contatou as rádios locais de Guimarí£es e Fátima, e em 24 horas posso estar com meus leitores naquelas cidades.
Tudo dá certo.
E em Fátima, como um sinal, recebo um presente de uma das pessoas que estí£o ali. Trata-se dos escritos de um monge budista, Thich Nhat Hanh, intitulado “The long road to joy” (A longa estrada para a alegria). A partir daquele momento, antes de continuar esta jornada de 90 dias pelo mundo, passo a ler todas as manhí£s as sábias palavras de Nhat Hanh, que resumo a seguir:

1] Vocíª já chegou. Portanto, sinta o prazer em cada passo, e ní£o fique preocupado com as coisas que ainda tem que superar. Ní£o temos nada diante de nós, apenas um caminho para ser percorrido a cada momento com alegria. Quando praticamos a meditaí§í£o peregrina, estamos sempre chegando, nosso lar é o momento atual, e nada mais.

2] Por causa disso, sorria sempre enquanto andar. Mesmo que tiver que forí§ar um pouco, e achar-se ridí­culo. Acostume-se a sorrir, e terminará alegre. Ní£o tenha medo de mostrar seu contentamento.

3] Se pensa que paz e felicidade estí£o sempre adiante, jamais conseguirá atingi-las. Procure entender que ambas sí£o suas companheiras de viagem.

4] Quando anda, está massageando e honrando a terra. Da mesma maneira, a terra está procurando ajudá-lo a equilibrar seu organismo e sua mente. Entenda esta relaí§í£o, e procure respeitá-la – que seus passos sejam dados com a firmeza de um leí£o, a elegí¢ncia de um tigre, a dignidade de um imperador.

5] Preste atení§í£o ao que acontece a sua volta. E concentre-se em sua respiraí§í£o – isso o ajudará a libertar-se dos problemas e das ansiedades que tentam acompanhá-lo em seu caminho.

6] Ao caminhar, ní£o é apenas vocíª que está se movendo, mas todas as geraí§íµes passadas e futuras. No mundo chamado de “real” o tempo é uma medida, mas no verdadeiro mundo ní£o existe nada além do momento presente. Tenha plena consciíªncia que tudo que já aconteceu e tudo o que acontecerá está em cada passo seu.

7] Divirta-se. Faí§a da meditaí§í£o peregrina um constante encontro consigo mesmo; jamais uma penitíªncia em busca de recompensas. Que sempre cresí§am flores e frutas nos lugares onde seus pés tocaram.

Edición nº 148: La Andadura de la meditación

Llego a Santiago de Compostela, esta vez en auto, para celebrar mi peregrinación de hace veinte años. Cuando estaba en Puente La Reina, me vino la idea de hacer tardes de autógrafos sin grandes preparaciones: solamente bastaba con telefonear para la próxima ciudad donde deberí­amos dormir, pedirles que colocasen un cartel en la librerí­a local y estarí­a allí­ a la hora marcada.
Funciono magní­ficamente en las pequeñas aldeas, aunque exigiendo un poco más de organización en las grandes ciudades, como la propia Santiago de Compostela. Tuve un contacto inesperado con los lectores y aprendí­ que las cosas hechas con amor pueden tener la improvisación como una gran aliada.
Santiago estaba ahora delante de mí­. Y a algunas decenas de kms. más adelante, el Océano Atlántico. Pero estoy decidido a seguir adelante con las tales tardes de autógrafos improvisadas, ya que pretendo quedarme noventa dí­as fuera de casa.
Y como no pretendo atravesar el oceano em este momento, debo ir para la derecha (Santander, Pais Basco) o para la izquierda (Guimarí£es, Portugal)?

Es mejor dejar que el destino elija: mi mujer y yo entramos en un bar y le preguntamos a un hombre que está tomando un café: derecha o izquierda? Él nos responde con convicción que debemos seguir para la izquierda – quizás pensando que nos referí­amos a partidos polí­ticos.

Llamo por teléfono a mi editor portugués. Él no me pregunta que locura es esa, no reclama de ser avisado encima de la hora. Dos horas más tarde me llama, dice que contactó las radios locales de Guimarí£es y Fátima y que en 24 horas puedo estar con mis lectores en aquellas ciudades.
Todo sale bien.
Y en Fátima, como una señal, recibo um regalo de una de las personas que están allí­. Se trata de las escrituras de un monje budista, Thich Nhat Hanh, tituladas “The long road to joy” (El largo camino para la alegrí­a) A partir de aquel momento, antes de continuar esta jornada de 90 dias por el mundo, paso a leer todas las mañanas las sabias palabras de Nhat Hanh, que resumo a seguir:

1] Tu ya llegaste. Por lo tanto, siente el placer en cada paso y no te preocupes con las cosas que todaví­a tienes que superar. No tenemos nada delante de nosotros, apenas un camino para ser recorrido a cada momento con alegrí­a. Cuando practicamos la meditación peregrina, estamos siempre llegando, nuestro hogar es el momento actual y nada más.

2] Por causa de eso, sonrí­e siempre mientras andas. Aunque tuvieses que esforzarte un poco y sentirte ridí­culo. Acostúmbrate a sonreí­r y terminarás alegre. No tengas miedo de mostrar que estás contento.

3] Si piensas que la paz y la felicidad están siempre adelante, jamás conseguirás alcanzarlas. Trata de entender que ambas son tus compañeras de viaje.

4] Cuando andas, estás masageando y honrando la tierra. De la misma manera, la tierra está tratando de ayudarte a equilibrar tu organismo y tu mente. Entiende esta relación y trata de respetarla – Que tus pasos sean dados con la firmeza del león, la elegancia del tigre, la dignidad de un emperador.

5] Presta atención a lo que sucede a tu alrededor. Concéntrate en tu respiración – eso te ayudará a liberarte de los problemas y ansiedades que tratan de acompañarte en tu camino.

6] Al caminar, no eres tu apenas que te estás moviendo, sino todas las generaciones pasadas y futuras. En el mundo llamado de “real” el tiempo es una medida, pero en el verdadero mundo no existe nada más allá del momento presente. Ten plena conciencia que todo lo que ya sucedió y todo lo que sucederá está en cada paso tuyo.

7] Diviértete. Haz de la meditación peregrina un constante encuentro contigo mismo; jamás una penitencia en busca de recompensas. Que siempre crezcan flores y frutos en los lugares donde tus pies toquen.

Meditation walking

arrive at Santiago de Compostela, this time by car, to celebrate my pilgrimage twenty years ago. When I was in Puente La Reina, I had the idea of holding afternoon book-signings without any elaborate preparations: just calling the next town where we were going to spend the night, ask them to put up a notice in the local bookstore, and be there at the appointed time.

It worked wonderfully in the small villages, but it did take a bit more organizing in big towns, like Santiago de Compostela itself. I enjoyed these unscheduled meetings; I found that labors of love are best performed in the spirit of improvisation.

Santiago is now in front of me, with the Atlantic Ocean a few dozen kilometers beyond. Nevertheless, I am determined to go ahead with my improvised book-signing afternoons, since my plan is to spend ninety days away from home.

And since I have no intention of crossing the ocean right now, should I take a right (Santander, the Basque Country) or a left (Guimarí£es, Portugal)?

Better let destiny make the choice: my wife and I enter a bar and ask a man who is drinking his coffee: right or left? He says with some conviction that we should go left – perhaps thinking we were referring to political parties.

I telephone my Portuguese editor. He does not ask me if I have gone crazy, does not complain about being informed at the last moment. Two hours later he calls me back to say that he has contacted the local radio stations in Guimarí£es and Fatima and that in 24 hours I can meet my readers in those cities.

Everything works out fine.

And in Fatima, like a sign, I receive a present from one of the people present at the book-signing – the writings of a Buddhist monk called Thich Nhat Hanh, with the title “The long road to joy”. From that moment on, before I continue on this 90-day journey across the world, every morning I read the wise words of Nhat Hanh, which I summarize below:

1] You have already arrived. So, feel pleasure at each step and do not worry about things that you still have to face. We have nothing before us, just a road to be traveled at each moment with joy. When we practice pilgrim meditation, we are always arriving, our home is the present moment, and nothing more.

2] For that reason, always smile while you walk, Even if you have to force it a bit and feel ridiculous. Get used to smiling and you will end up happy. Do not be afraid of displaying your contentment.

3] If you think that peace and joy always lie ahead, you will never manage to achieve them. Try to understand that they are both your traveling companions.

4] When you walk, you are massaging and honoring the earth. In the same way, the earth is trying to help you to balance your organism and mind. Understand this relationship and try to respect it – may your steps have the firmness of a lion, the elegance of a tiger and the dignity of an emperor.

5] Pay attention to what is going on around you. And concentrate on your breathing – this will help you to get rid of the problems and worries that try to accompany you on your journey.

6] When you walk, it is not just you that is moving, but all past and future generations. In the so-called “real” world, time is a measure, but in the true world nothing exists beyond the present moment. Be fully aware that everything that has happened and everything that will happen is in each step you take.

7] Enjoy yourself. Make pilgrim meditation a constant meeting with yourself, never a penance in search of reward. May flowers and fruit always grow in the places touched by your feet.

Édition nº 148 : Méditation en marchant

J’arrive í  Saint-Jacques-de-Compostelle, en voiture cette fois, pour fíªter le vingtième anniversaire de mon pèlerinage. Alors que je me trouvais í  Puente La Reina, l’idée m’est venue de réaliser des soirées de signatures sans grande préparation : il suffisait de téléphoner í  la prochaine ville oí¹ nous devions dormir, de demander que l’on mette une annonce dans la librairie locale, et j’y serais í  l’heure fixée.
Cela a marché magnifiquement dans les petits villages, bien que cela exigeí¢t un peu plus d’organisation dans de grandes villes, comme Saint-Jacques-de-Compostelle. J’ai eu un contact inattendu avec les lecteurs, et j’ai appris que des choses faites avec amour pouvaient trouver dans l’improvisation une grande alliée.
Saint-Jacques était maintenant devant moi. Et quelques dizaines de kilomètres plus loin, l’océan Atlantique. Mais je suis décidé í  poursuivre ces soirées de signatures improvisées, puisque j’ai l’intention de rester quatre-vingt-dix jours hors de chez moi.
Et comme je ne prétends pas traverser l’océan en ce moment, dois-je aller í  droite (Santander, Pays basque) ou í  gauche (Guimarí£es, Portugal) ?
Mieux vaut laisser le destin choisir : nous entrons, ma femme et moi, dans un bar, et nous demandons í  un homme qui est en train de prendre un café : « droite ou gauche ? » Il dit avec conviction que nous devons continuer í  gauche – pensant peut-íªtre que nous faisons allusion aux partis politiques.
Je téléphone í  mon éditeur portugais. Il ne demande pas quelle est cette folie, il ne me reproche pas de le prévenir í  la dernière minute. Deux heures plus tard, il m’appelle, dit qu’il a contacté les radios locales de Guimarí£es et Fatima, et que dans 24 heures je pourrai íªtre avec mes lecteurs dans ces villes.
Tout se passe bien.
Et í  Fatima, comme un signe, je reí§ois un cadeau d’une des personnes qui se trouvent lí . Il s’agit des écrits d’un moine bouddhiste, Thich Nhat Hanh, intitulés « The long road to joy » (La longue route vers la joie). í€ partir de ce moment, avant de poursuivre ce voyage de 90 jours de par le monde, je me mets í  lire tous les matins les sages paroles de Nhat Hanh, que je résume ici :

1] Vous íªtes déjí  arrivé. Alors, sentez le plaisir dans chaque pas, et ne soyez pas préoccupé par les choses que vous devez encore surmonter. Nous n’avons rien devant nous, seulement un chemin í  parcourir í  chaque moment avec joie. Quand nous pratiquons la méditation en pèlerinage, nous sommes toujours en train d’arriver, notre foyer est le moment actuel, et rien de plus.

2] Pour cette raison, souriez toujours pendant que vous marchez. Míªme si vous devez faire un petit effort, et que vous vous trouvez ridicule. Habituez-vous í  sourire, et vous finirez joyeux. N’ayez pas peur de montrer votre contentement.

3] Si vous pensez que la paix et le bonheur sont toujours pour plus tard, vous ne parviendrez jamais í  les atteindre. Tí¢chez de comprendre que l’une et l’autre sont vos compagnons de voyage.

4] Quand vous marchez, vous massez et vous honorez la terre. De míªme, la terre s’efforce de vous aider í  équilibrer votre organisme et votre esprit. Comprenez cette relation, et tí¢chez de la respecter – que vos pas aient la fermeté d’un lion, l’élégance d’un tigre, la dignité d’un empereur.

5] Príªtez attention í  ce qui se passe autour de vous. Et concentrez-vous sur votre respiration – cela vous aidera í  vous libérer des problèmes et des angoisses qui tentent de vous accompagner sur votre chemin.

6] Quand vous marchez, ce n’est pas seulement vous qui vous déplacez, mais toutes les générations passées et futures. Dans le monde appelé « réel », le temps est une mesure, mais dans le vrai monde rien n’existe au-delí  du moment présent. Soyez pleinement conscient que tout ce qui est déjí  arrivé et tout ce qui arrivera se trouve dans chacun de vos pas.

7] Amusez-vous. Faites de la méditation en pèlerinage une constante rencontre avec vous-míªme, jamais une pénitence en quíªte de récompenses. Que toujours poussent des fleurs et des fruits dans les lieux que vos pieds ont touchés.

Edizione nº 148 : Meditare camminando

Arrivo a Santiago de Compostela, questa volta in auto, per celebrare il mio pellegrinaggio di venti anni fa. Mentre mi trovavo a Puente La Reina, venne l’idea di organizzare dei pomeriggi di autografi senza grandi preparativi: bastava telefonare alla successiva cittí  in cui avremmo dormito, chiedere che esponessero un manifesto nella libreria locale, e io mi sarei trovato lí­ all’ora stabilita.
Il tutto riuscí­ magnificamente nei piccoli paesi, mentre ci volle un po’ piú di organizzazione nelle cittadine grandi, come la stessa Santiago de Compostela. Ebbi cosí­ un contatto inatteso con i lettori e appresi che le cose fatte con amore possono avvalersi dell’improvvisazione come di un grande alleato.
Adesso Santiago era lí­ davanti a me. E alcune decine di chilometri piú avanti, l’Oceano Atlantico. Ma sono deciso a proseguire con i pomeriggi di autografi improvvisati, giacché intendo rimanere novanta giorni fuori casa.
E visto che in questo momento non ho intenzione di attraversare l’oceano, devo andare a destra (Santander, Paesi Baschi) o a sinistra (Guimarí£es, Portogallo)?
Meglio lasciare che sia il destino a scegliere: mia moglie e io entriamo in un bar e domandiamo a un uomo che sta prendendo un caffè: destra o sinistra? Lui, convinto, risponde che dobbiamo proseguire verso sinistra – forse pensando che ci stavamo riferendo ai partiti politici.
Cosí­ telefono al mio editore portoghese. Lui non domanda che follia sia questa, non reclama che lo sto avvisando all’ultimo momento. Due ore piú tardi mi chiama, dice che ha contattato le radio locali di Guimarí£es e Fátima, e nel giro di 24 ore potrí² incontrarmi con i miei lettori in quelle cittí .
Tutto funziona benissimo.
E a Fátima, come un segnale, ricevo un regalo da una delle persone che sono lí­ presenti. Si tratta degli scritti di un monaco buddista, Thich Nhat Hanh, un testo intitolato “The long road to joy” (La lunga strada verso la gioia). Da quel momento in poi, prima di continuare questo viaggio di 90 giorni per il mondo, leggo tutte le mattine le sagge parole di Nhat Hanh, che riassumo qui di seguito:

1] Ormai sei arrivato. Dunque, senti il piacere di ogni passo e non essere preoccupato per le cose che ancora devi superare. Non abbiamo niente davanti a noi, solo un cammino da percorrere in ogni momento con gioia. Quando pratichiamo la meditazione errante, siamo sempre sul punto di arrivare, il nostro focolare è il momento attuale e nulla piú.

2] Percií², sorridi sempre mentre cammini. Sia pure dovendo forzare un po’, e trovandoti ridicolo. Prendi l’abitudine di sorridere e finirai per essere allegro. Non avere paura di mostrare la tua contentezza.

3] Se pensi che pace e felicití  siano sempre pií¹ avanti, non riuscirai mai a raggiungerle. Cerca di capire che entrambe sono le tue compagne di viaggio.

4] Quando cammini, stai massaggiando e onorando la terra. Allo stesso modo, la terra sta cercando di aiutarti a mantenere in equilibrio il tuo organismo e la tua mente. Comprendi questo rapporto e cerca di rispettarlo: che i tuoi passi siano compiuti con la fermezza di un leone, l’eleganza di una tigre e la dignití  di un imperatore.

5] Presta attenzione a cií² che accade intorno a te. E concentrati sul respiro: questo ti aiuterí  a liberarti dai problemi e dalle ansie che tentano di accompagnarti nel cammino.

6] Nel camminare, non sei solo tu che ti stai muovendo, ma tutte le generazioni passate e future. Nel mondo cosiddetto “reale” il tempo è una misura, ma nel mondo vero non esiste nulla oltre l’attimo presente. Abbi piena coscienza che tutto cií² che è accaduto e tutto cií² che accadrí  si trova in ogni tuo passo.

7] Divertiti. Fai della meditazione errante un incontro costante con te stesso, e mai una penitenza in cerca di ricompense. Che sempre crescano fiori e frutti nei luoghi che i tuoi piedi hanno toccato.

The essence of forgiveness

By Paulo Coelho

One of Napoleon’s soldiers committed a crime – the story does not explain what exactly – and he was condemned to death.

On the evening before he was due to be shot, the soldier’s mother came to plead for her son’s life to be spared.

‘Madam, your son’s action does not deserve clemency.’

‘I know,’ said the mother. ‘If it did, that would not be true forgiveness. To forgive is the ability to go beyond vengeance or justice.’

When he heard those words, Napoleon commuted the death sentence to exile.

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Newsletter : Issue 147 is on-line

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On my way to a book fair

By Paulo Coelho

I was flying from New York to Chicago to attend the book fair held by the American Booksellers Association. Suddenly, a young man stood up in the aisle of the plane and announced:

‘I need twelve volunteers each willing to carry a single rose when we get off the plane.’

Several people raised their hands. I did too, but I wasn’t chosen.

Even so, I decided to follow the group. We landed and the young man indicated a young woman in the arrivals hall at O’Hare airport. One by one, the passengers presented their roses to her. At last, in front of everyone, the young man asked her to marry him, and she accepted.

An air steward said to me:

‘I’ve been working here for years, and that’s the most romantic thing that has ever happened in this airport.’

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The bridge and the plank

By Paulo Coelho

After many years of work and meditation on the best way to cross the river that ran past his house, a man created a kind of footbridge out of planks. The villagers, however, rarely used it because it seemed so precarious.

One day, an engineer appeared. With the help of the inhabitants, he built a proper bridge, which infuriated the maker of the footbridge. He would tell anyone who would listen that the engineer had failed to show due respect for his work.

‘The footbridge is still there!’ replied the other villagers. ‘It’s a monument to your years of effort and thought.’

‘Yes, but no one uses it,’ the man would reply tetchily.

‘You are a highly respected citizen and we all like you, it’s just that we find the new bridge more beautiful and more useful than your plank footbridge.’

‘But it’s crossing my river.’

‘Now, however much we may respect your work, we have to say that the river is not yours. We could wade, swim or row across it, but if people prefer to use the bridge, why not respect their wishes? Besides, how can we trust someone who, instead of trying to improve his own bridge, spends all his time criticising someone else’s?’

(Based on a story by Silvio Paulo Albino)

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