Manuel is a free man – Part 1

Paulo Coelho

Manuel has worked for 30 years non-stop, gives his children an education, sets a good example, devotes his entire time to work, and never wonders: “Is there any meaning to what I am doing?” His sole concern is to know that the busier he is, the more important he will be in the eyes of society.

His children grow up and leave home, he is promoted at work, then one day he is given a watch or a pen in recognition of all those years of dedication, the friends shed a tear or two, and the long-expected moment arrives: he is retired, free to do whatever he likes!

The first few months, every now and again he pays a visit to the office where he worked, chats with the old friends, and relishes the pleasure of doing what he has always dreamed of: sleeping late. He goes for walks on the beach or in town, then there is the house in the country he managed to buy with so much sweat, discovers gardening and little by little penetrates the mystery of the plants and flowers. Manuel has time, all the time in the world. He travels, using part of the money he has managed to put aside. He visits museums, in the space of two hours learns what painters and sculptors from different eras took centuries to develop, but at least he has the feeling that he is improving his culture. He takes hundreds, thousands of pictures and sends them to friends – after all, they have to know how happy he is!

Some more months go by. Manuel learns that gardens do not follow exactly the same rules as men – what he has planted is going to take a while to grow, and it is use trying to see if the rosebush has buds yet. In a moment of sincere reflection he discovers that all that he has seen on his travels was a landscape outside the window of a tourist bus, monuments that are now stored away on 6×9 photos, but the truth is that he felt no special emotion – he was more concerned about telling his friends than he was in living the magic experience of finding himself in a foreign country.

He still watches all the newsreels on television, reads more newspapers (because he has more time), considers himself to be a very well-informed person, capable of discussing things that he did not the time before to study.


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