The importance of looking – Part 2

Paulo Coelho


“I sell churches.”

I stood astonished as he continued:

“I am employed by the Vatican to select buyers, since there are more churches than churchgoers in Holland. And since we have had awful experiences in the past, seeing sacred places turned into nightclubs, condominiums, boutiques and even sex shops, we changed our sales system. The project has to be approved by the community and the buyer must say what he is going to do with the property: as a rule we accept only proposals that include a cultural center, a charity institution or a museum.

“So what does that have to do with your talk, and the others that I am trying to organize? People are no longer meeting one another. When they do not meet, they do not grow.”

He looked me straight in the eye and concluded:

“Meetings. That was precisely my mistake with you. Instead of sending a bunch of e-mails, I should have shown right away that I was made of flesh and blood. When I failed to get an answer from a politician, I went and knocked on his office door and he told me: “If you want something, first of all you have to show your eyes.” That’s what I have done ever since then and I have had nothing but good results. We can have all the available means of communication in the world, but nothing, absolutely nothing takes the place of the human look.”

Of course, I finally accepted his proposal.

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  1. Ale says:

    Bueno creo que tiene toda la razon muchas veces podemos o intentamos ver lo que realmente tienen dentro las personas, la mirada dice mucho.. muchas veces escuchamos las palabars de alguien pero al verlas nos damos cuenta de que no son sinceros..
    Gracias por lograr que pueda ver mas allá de lo que todos ven.

  2. B*Sofie says:

    I am so happy about this ending
    The world-wide-web-society are
    fantastic, but can`t be compared to
    world-wide-hearts meeting face to face*

  3. Mariëlle says:

    Being from Holland, and living in a city centre I can confirm that there are more churches than churchgoers here. In the city where I live, about 100 metres from my house, is a big church which is used as a disco and for private parties. I went there a couple of times but it is actually too big for this purpose, and it felt a bit uneasy dancing around there with an alcoholic drink while the statues of Jesus and the other Holy men are staring down at me. I don’t really believe in sin… but at that moment I very much felt like a sinner.

    And I totally agree that nothing goes above contact in person. Thats also why I dont believe in internet dating or stuff like that.


  4. David says:

    Thank you it is a powerful thought we have in our eyes, the reflection of a soul and by email and electronic communication, what do we feel? Maybe a sliver of soul at best?

  5. Natasha says:

    I don’t get it… what does it mean to sell churches??

  6. Irina Black says:

    Silent Knowledge.The words are not us.The actions are still not us.The light goes through our eyes into our heart and inflames it.The Fire of the Heart get’s transformed into Light,which eyes can see.These eyes in front of me..

  7. Catherine says:

    love, love this story so much ! ;o)

    and yes, churches are commonly transformed into housing accomodation in Britain… spooky I think.

  8. Heart says:

    Eye contact means the world to any relationship. I often encourage parents to bond with their new born by making sure they answer the babies extreme focused eye contact. Also, Thelma had talked about seeing paradise in the beloveds eyes :))

    A strange profession indeed, a church sales man. I saw one of those abandoned churches in a working class area of Dublin, which had been turned into a night club. I felt very at unease about it. The building was an old Celtic style, beautiful stone church, and the problem was, it was too small for the population in this suburb. So, they built up one of those gigantic practical churches which can fit hundreds of parishioners, but which lack the soul of the old sacred building. I can not understand how the parishioners would let this happen, I’m sure it broke many hearts to see their old beloved prayer house turn into Sodoma and Gomorra.

  9. T.K says:

    This gives me a new meaning about ‘face to face’. Who could turn down an offer to speak (and meet others) after that kind of interaction? Very inspiring.

  10. Mari Ann says:

    When studying in Maastricht I visited two churches. One was turned into a beautiful library and café. There were frescos in the ceiling, and they had built stairs so you could go up, borrow books and look at the frescos. I am very religious / spiritual, but I was not offended by the modern use of this church. And they said it had been decaying. I really enjoyed being there, and it was a lot of people in the church. But I also felt a little nostalgic.

    The other church I visited was a beutiful church where I went inside at lunchtime and burnt candles. It was peaceful, quiet, a little dark, and a very good place for meditation and prayer. Just behind the church there were a little shop selling the most beautiful Virgin Mary figurines. I was short of money, so I didn’t buy any of them. But I will as soon as I go back there.

    Anyway – both churches gave me a very good feeling. Together they showed the past, the present and the future. I want it all – if possible. I can be in the mood for meditation and prayer – or I can be in the mood for looking at books and going to cafés in the prettiest of settings. Walking into this church was like walking into a piece of art from times gone by.

    I believe we also need some new churches to take an openminded Christianity into the present and future. But they can be smaller, maybe small chapels for meditation like the one architect/artist Kjell (?) Nupen just built in Krisitiansand, Norway, last year. I think that might be a good supplement to the old churches for the new kind of spirituality and Christianity.

  11. Alexandra says:

    Aha, means I must meet you personally…Well, never heard about such church market. In my country, happens that two or more rites fights for one church, saying it is their or of the other. But about one church for sale, never ever … But the world has many curiosity like that , in Holland. I dont go often in church, because in my family I am almost the only one Protestant. The others are Catholics, Orthodox, Baptists, so on… But I miss that thing. Now I have to go because my niece, god child of mine, has her confirmation in my church, very soon. That reminds me how fast times passes, only few years ago I was holding here as a baby, and now is already a little miss.

  12. THELMA says:

    Imagine how many people have wanted to look into your eyes, dearest Paulo Coelho?? ;] Do you remember some?? [ I am joking]

    My daughter was ‘teaching’ me one day: If you want to pass unnoticed, do not have an eye-contact! Exactly the opposite!

  13. Marie-Christine says:

    seriously considering selling churches…

  14. Elaine says:

    Da profissí£o da pessoa em questí£o, surpreendente…nunca ouvi falar de alguém que vendesse igrejas.
    E do que os olhos de alguém podem nos dizer, indiscutí­velmente correto. Através dele sentimos o que vai na alma do outro, e através dos nossos olhos mostramos (mesmo sem querer) o que realmente existe em nossa alma e em nosso coraí§í£o. Concordo que tenha aceitado o convite… Quantas vezes vivemos a experiencia de perceber o poder de convencimento e compreensí£o de um olhar profundo?