By Paulo Coelho
Life is like a great bicycle race, whose aim is to fulfill one’s Personal Legend – that which, according to the ancient alchemists, is our true mission on Earth.
At the start of the race, we’re all together – sharing the camaraderie and enthusiasm. But as the race progresses, the initial joy gives way to the real challenges: tiredness, monotony, doubts about one’s own ability. We notice that some friends have already given up, deep down in their hearts – they’re still in the race, but only because they can’t stop in the middle of the road. This group keeps growing in number, all of them pedaling away near the support car – also known as Routine – where they chat among themselves, fulfill their obligations, but forget the beauty and challenges along the road.
We eventually distance ourselves from them; and then we are forced to confront loneliness, the surprises of unknown bends in the road, and problems with the bicycle. After a time, when we have fallen off several times, without anyone nearby to help us, we end up asking ourselves whether such an effort is worthwhile.
Yes, of course it is: one must not give up: Father Alan Jones says that, in order for our soul to be able to overcome these obstacles, we need the Four Invisible Forces: love, death, power and time.
We must love, for we are loved by God.
We must be aware of death, in order to understand life.
We must fight to grow – but not be fooled by the power which comes with growth, for we know it is worthless.
Finally, we must accept that our soul – although it is eternal – is at this moment caught in the web of time, with all its opportunities and limitations; so, on our solitary bike race, we must act as if time existed, doing what we can to value each second, resting when necessary, but always continuing in the direction of the Divine light, without letting ourselves be bothered by the moments of anxiety.
These Four Forces cannot be dealt with as problems to be solved, since they are beyond our control. We must accept them, and let them teach us what it is we must learn.
We live in a Universe which is both vast enough to contain us, and small enough to hold in our hearts. In every man’s soul, dwells the soul of the world, the silence of wisdom. As we pedal on towards our goal, we must ask: “what is lovely about today?” The sun may be shining, but if it is pouring with rain, it is important to remember that this also means that the black clouds will soon disperse. Clouds come and go, but the sun remains the same, and never fails – at times of loneliness, it is important to remember this.
So, when times are tough, we must not forget that the whole world has endured such moments, regardless of race, color, social standing, belief, or culture. A beautiful prayer by the Sufi Dhu ‘l – Nun (Egyptian, died 861 AD) perfectly sums up the positive attitude necessary at such times:
“Oh Lord, when I pay attention to the voices of animals, the sounds of the trees, the bubbling of the waters, the chirping of the birds, the howling wind or the crashing thunder, I perceive in them evidence of Your unity; I sense that You are the supreme power, almighty, the supreme wisdom, supreme justice.
“Oh Lord, I recognize You in the trials I am enduring. Allow, Lord, Your satisfaction to be my satisfaction. May I be Your joy, that joy which a Father sees in his son. And may I recall You with tranquility and determination, even when it is difficult to say that I love You.”
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