Manuel is a free man – Part 2

Paulo Coelho


He looks for someone to share his opinions – but they are all immersed in the river of life, working, doing something, envying Manuel his freedom and at the same time happy to be useful to society, to be “busy” at something important.

Manuel seeks for comfort in his children. They always treat him with great affection – he has been an excellent father, an example of honesty and dedication – but they too have other worries, although they consider Sunday lunch a duty.

Manuel is a free man, enjoys a reasonable financial situation, is well-informed, has an impeccable past, but what now? What to do with all this freedom, won with such hardship? Everyone greets him, everyone praises him, but no-one has any time for him. Little by little Manuel begins to feel sad and useless – despite all the years he has spent serving the world and his family.

One night an angel appears in his dream: “What have you done with your life? Did you try to live it according to your dreams?”

Manuel wakes up in a cold sweat. What dreams? This was his dream: to have a diploma, to get married, to have children, to give them an education, to retire, to travel. Why was the angel bothering him with all these senseless questions?

Another long day begins: the newspapers, the news on the TV, the garden and lunch. Sleep a little, do whatever you feel like doing and at that very moment discover that you do not feel like doing anything. Manuel is a free and sad man, one step away from depression, because he was always too busy to think about the meaning of life, while the years flowed by under the bridge. He remembers the lines of a poem: “he passed through life/but did not live.”

But it is too late to accept that, so better change the subject. Freedom, conquered with so much struggling, is just exile in disguise.

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  1. danny says:

    hey everyone im new here! 17— an a malnourished philosopher whose wings have been clipped the standards of norms.

    The Eastern wind came blowing through the town, Aeolus as some creature’s referred to it, would come at this time of the year spreading its last joy of fall. Out of the cold streets a used, torn, sleeping black bag emerged; she was lifted high in the air and her life began there. With dancing happiness and delighted eyes she saw the town’s people, the country side land, and the high mountains. She merely made her way to that melancholic town; she saw and greeted the people and flew through the streets with such gusto as if she were a messenger that bared good news. Looma saw herself in a glass display amid her happiness she couldn’t help feeling the strange yet new sense of hostility and of unwelcomed insecurities. The flood of emotions that flowed through her soul distracted her to this new feeling. She carried on, greeting and contemplating upon flowers of the garden, a more stunning beauty stole the flowers glory. The red apple caught her attention, the vivid colors of the apple had the attention of more creatures, they glanced at her with hungry eyes but afraid of a protective tree, the apple was safe and held high by the tree. Form a distance Looma stood still feeling grateful and warm for such a site, at that time the cold wind announcing the treachery of winter gave her an inevitable and scary realization, a doubtful trembling voice questioned ” why was I on the floor?.” Her weary eyes were fixed at the blunt contrast. A precious and delicate apple skin colored love was held high getting the best rays of life that the sun had to offer, while Looma a black dusty worn out bag was on the floor- her once lively heart began emitting harmful feelings of hatred and sympathy towards herself. The wind moved her and with a disconsolate spirit she followed; a speedy humming bird was now swaying and nipping her sides. He was cheerful, she questioned “Happy why was I on the floor?” he answered fancifully ” I am aware if my weakness and my size, I am also aware at anytime I could have an unfortunate demise, there are so much predators lurking waiting for a mistake to capitalize, I live happy because my time here is short. As I go along I spread happiness and joy, I have never questioned life, and that satisfies me for questions fills you with doubt and sad burdens; that’s all I know roaming bag.” Looma roamed through the countryside, the words of the hummingbird echoed through her head, she admired such happiness. The singing voice of a river stopped and question, “Why do you travel with such faces?” Looma stopped and again that heavy feeling in her heart made her gasp before she spoke. All that came out was that damaging question, “why was I on the floor and not up high like the love apple with her heart the tree?” The river answered “The sparkly water fills my shape and together we flow in high spirits through the villages and down the valleys taking the path of life, I’ve heard the creature’s secrets, learnt that the creatures around benefit from me and the water for life, but I don’t have the answer to your question.” Looma had realized that the river was old and on the ground, yet the people speculated on the music it brought from town to town. Looma returned to the town’s edge, she asked a butterfly this time without that heavy feeling “why was I on the streets being stepped on?” The butterfly earnestly answered “the wind whispers a secret to me, and the secret is this, I should get up every morning and shine under the sun as bright as I can, that way the flowers will get up and look alive trying to impress me. That way the garden will look gorgeous and the people will come to visit it. In this manner I will be able to talk love with them for love is a powerful weapon, it rises flowers, it moves mountains, and it brings great happiness. I am sorry I don’t know the answer to your question. I can tell you though that you are here for a reason.” The wind took her away from there and brought her to a waste. Her agitated heart blindly went through the waste land, she felt a sense of belonging, and she looked at the beauty that surrounded the waste land. Then she saw a vulture eating off the bloated corpse of a rabbit, she questioned him “why was I on the street ground?” The vulture answered “Nature provides me with shelter and protection, in return I clean her eating what other creatures consider garbage, however it is my treasure. I am aware of my purpose here in this passing world I now I belong to a delicate system, to achieve happiness you should first know your purpose here in this world.” These words filled Looma with hope, for the first time she felt a little satisfied ever since that sadness replaced all happiness in her heart. The vulture flew away; Looma now realized that she wanted to be happy, with this she continued her travel curious minded. A tall wise tree shrouded the sun rays, now with a different question she approached “Tree tell me what’s my purpose here in this world?” The tree opened its old eyes a confused Looma what he knows “I know my purpose here in this life, therefore I am happy, but I have seen many souls that pass their last days in total anguish fueled by their poor understanding of the world.” The tree closed its eyes and went back to his meditating pose. Looma left emotionally preparing herself for a life changing quest, she went up high in the air this time she didn’t question she tried looking for answers in her heart. She travelled pass towns often spoke to the river, moons rose, suns settled, her long quest made her doubtful again she questioned “who gave me life?.” Looma however still went ahead hoping that the horizon will someday bring her answers. At last she came to give up, she was week, tired, that warm flame in her soul was off, and her heart was cold. Below at the foot of that cliff, she saw a farm and the sea, taking what she thought was her last breath of life she threw herself off the cliff. Strange enough Looma didn’t fall. The gentle wind caressed her face, Looma had a revelation of realization she knew then that the wind had given her life, before she questioned Aeolus, he answered “A prideful person will never learn to appreciate the small things around them, but you Looma, you know whats it like to be nothing. By now you have realized to be happy with yourself and you have learnt that everything around you is of equal value” a tear was shed from a peaceful heart. The wind continued “Come with me I’ll show you the mysteries of the world, I’ll tell you it’s secrets and ways while you will give the words of hope as we go along to all the broken souls. We will be like the river and the water, like the butterfly and the flowers, and like the vulture and mother nature.” The burning love grew between them, Looma blissfully gave into the charms of the wind, and she felt alive again. The hostile world was no longer a threat, she had a protector, she had a purpose! She gracefully floated down to the farm; she saw a mourning pig—- Looma knew what she had to do. tHE EnD

  2. Mari Ann says:

    Please, help me find Manuel. I need to talk to him. Now.

  3. Dhands says:

    I'm delightful to read your comments Gabriela,……………..
    I'm always thinking about what am i doing right now and what i can do better.Our heart always speaks about doing lot of things,but we wont try or achieve those things.That is the problem with many of our lives.
    We should try those things and make mistakes and learn from our mistakes and live each and every moment with adventures and explore our dreams……………………….
    Instead of that if we live a normal life as Manuel,we will be in the same position at one point of time in life……………
    Of course Manuel is a free man from others view,Not by himself.He is feeling the pain of loneliness…………..
    I would like to explore my dreams…………

  4. ashram says:

    If life's surprises hit us ,we sometimes lost our equilibrium, it seems that the world stops spinning and everything turns into a vast of emptiness..I was so stupid to think that no matter what happens my spouse will always stand on my side. Later did I know that my husband sided on her sister over a serious issue, any husband who is on his right mind would not take side, he should always stay in the middle in order not to aggravate the situation. But in my situation its on the contrary, he put me into a very humiliating situation which broken my entire being into pieces..and I really dont know if I can forgive him on what he did to me…nobody understands what i am feeling right now,for them its just like a normal misunderstanding of a couple, nobody knows that it slowly devours my senses and devasted my soul….
    Like Manuel in your story, little by little I feel sad and lonely…I really dont know what to do, the inner struggle that I am suffering right now is too much..

  5. Mirela Baron says:

    The TRUTH is in OUR HEARTS and can not be evaluated! That’s why I SINCERLY LIKE you!!!You are the perfect PHILOSOFER!
    …and it is A COMPLIMENT!hope you anderstand me like that!!!

    …still humble and modest

    mirela(the woman in elevator)

  6. oceangleam says:

    Manuel is servent but not to himself. And this is sad.
    The ultimate achievement is to serve to life, to serve to your friends, family co-workers and to self, equaly and without indulging to bad.
    There is the only one freedom in the life, giving the best from oneself, whatever it is.
    If the things turn differently then everyone has the right to abandond all the deeds, leave the situation and to start again.
    Any moment in his life, any, like animals do.
    This is the law of the Universe.

  7. THELMA says:

    The TRUTH has .. past and future and present .. in ONE.
    It IS, now and before and for ever. [although, I some times with .. high heels, I do not like climbing stairs or even I .. slip from them!! That’s why I knew the .. Biofreeze cream. ;]

    About Manuel who is in your stories, dear Paulo Coelho, and in our thoughts .., I think that since his Soul and Mind are eternal and they just reside in his material body nothing can stop him from dreaming, flying, creating with them.. He performs his duties, lives the life of an ordinary man, but at the same time, if he has found the TRUTH, he lives his OWN reality and well gained FREEDOM.

    ‘Know the Truth and the Truth will set you FREE’, Jesus said.

    p.s. Thank you, dearest Paul, for the .. hint! I bow on your ..rightly gained wisdom. T. x

  8. Petru Simion says:

    If we put Manuel’s life at one of the extermes, and at the other extreme this:

    Which of the extremes do you feel closer to ?

    Before deciding … one more thing to consider.
    Manuel will get old, finally get a final disease, but because he lived a moderate life, he will be able to “fight the desease” for many years. Last ones from his bed.

    For the other extreme, if anyone makes a mistake …. hmmm … no wounded in this game … I guess all they see is a big light …

    What choice would you make ?

  9. T.K. says:

    “…exile in disguise” That is a powerful interpretation. Only Manuel can define what his freedom should look like and how it should be lived. No need to judge his existance when at the end of the day, my opinion and anyone else’s opinion on the matter has no value or meaning. Only Manuel can be satisfied or not satisfied with his contributions (or lack thereof) to society and to his family and himself.

  10. Mari Ann Ree says:

    Just tell Manuel to do something for other people. Helping others will make him feel better. Life is never empty if you can support others, be it family, friends or needy people. Old people, children, refugees…. To me it looks like the best thing to do for Manuel is to be somebody for someone. Too late for regrets when it comes to his past life. But he still might have 10-20-30 good years, so he should make sure to do something worthwhile.

  11. Cat says:

    Ok, Manuel…

    From ‘Rewards and Fairies’ 1909

    ‘if’ by rudyard kipling

    “If you can keep your head when all about you
    Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,
    If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
    But make allowance for their doubting too;
    If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
    Or being lied about, don’t deal in lies,
    Or being hated, don’t give way to hating,
    And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise:

    If you can dream – and not make dreams your master,
    If you can think – and not make thoughts your aim;
    If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
    And treat those two impostors just the same;
    If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken
    Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
    Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
    And stoop and build ‘em up with worn-out tools:

    If you can make one heap of all your winnings
    And risk it all on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
    And lose, and start again at your beginnings
    And never breath a word about your loss;
    If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
    To serve your turn long after they are gone,
    And so hold on when there is nothing in you
    Except the Will which says to them: “Hold on!”

    If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
    Or walk with kings – nor lose the common touch,
    If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,
    If all men count with you, but none too much;
    If you can fill the unforgiving minute
    With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run,
    Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,
    And – which is more – you’ll be a Man, my son!”

    Rudyard Kipling (1865-1936)

  12. Mariessima says:

    how does one prevent to be Manuel? It seems he embodies most people I know. myself am stil figuring out what my dream is and how to live it. Maybe, this is it? How do I know if its the right one?

  13. Cat says:

    I think Manuel needs to be given a little bit of credit for the life he HAS built up…
    there are foundations and pillars [home, children, job].

    Compared to my own pap, who has lived for most of his life abroad…. following his dreams…
    yet back home, a family lived also.. separated from him by physical distance. I wonder what it would be like to have had a day to day father relationship.. not one by long distant but short phone calls, summer visits, postcards, stamp collecting from all the magical places he visited.
    yes, a brilliant life.. following HIS dream..
    as his mother did.. following her dream.
    but again, who lingers in the shadows and keeps those pillars standing?!

  14. Mirela Baron says:


    …on page 208,are some definitions about transformation and fear ,or what many people are thinking about WHICHES and WISARDS!




    MIRELA(the woman in elevator)

  15. Lily says:

    I’ve known too many Manuel. Our society breeds manuels… Just recently a male friend was complaining of this same thing. He said, all his life, he’d been told that he needs to study, make money so that some day he will marry, have a wife and support his family. So he did that, he worked, he collected money and got married. Then one day, he walked into his house and everything was gone, the wife took everything and left. Money furniture, all of it, all that he had worked so hard for all his life. Then, everything started to go down, depression hit. and since he was a salesman, he couldn’t even work, because he said when you’re depressed, how can you sell anything and communicate with customers, so he couldn’t work, his credit got destroyed and a hard depression hit him. He was feeling the pressures that society puts on men.
    He’s trying to cope with it still, he says it really hit him about a year after the incident. But seems that he is much happier now, doing things he wants to do. But I hardly blame him or Manuel or any other Manuel. Freedom… hope for a better future for hunamity.

  16. Dan M says:

    I feel that Manuel is the model of our society, work hard, take care of the family, until you have put aside a good measure of wealth to support your old age and your children can live on their own. The only thing that is forgotten when everything else has been planned for, is emotions… One thing is to plan for enjoyable moments and another is to enjoy them. Enjoying the passing moments is allowing for the heart to beat freely, without needing to put a schedule ahead. You can schedule a date, but you cannot enjoy it unless you let yourself feel. If your dream is to spend the end of your life alone, you should be ready to spend time with yourself, and allow your inner life to flow outside.

  17. Alexandra says:

    Thank you dear Cat, wish you only nice things…Bye

  18. Heart says:

    Compared to being a Slave, yes Manuel is a Free man, with his own human rights to do what he desire. Modern life, however, so often consist in a Bank… guaranteeing a mortgage… and human beings, working 8 to 5 every day, to pay this loan back. This is imprisonment of our souls. So, how can we find real ‘liberation’? We have to sacrifice buying all that stuff our neighbors have, and take some time to live. On average I believe Americans pay $500-700 each month just in car-payments, to drive the new model cars and very expensive SUV’s, so on. To step down the materialism, would probably be the first step for us, to go searching for real liberation of our souls.

  19. Irina Black says:

    To be active,or “to be activated” has got the meaning only when the person lives in the spirit of transformation.

  20. Cat says:

    I would do anything to have a peaceful life! the life of manuel sounds responsible and full… ok no parties, high risk sports etc… but surely deserving of some credit.
    a long time ago – well, two generations [!!] .. his life were what dreams were made of.. are we not spoilt these days for choice? it is a sad fact that also the younger generation are not returning their dues to those who deserve them… the older generation. Hence, so many elders in the UK comment on Spending the Childs Inheritance…why not when they feel no thanks has been extended to them.
    our culture doesn’t value any more the older population of the workforce.. it hires new and fresh. it doesnt value wisdom and experience of someone having worked on the job for many many years. those people are potential redundants to be discarded without due grace. meanwhile, manuel did everything that was expected of him and he did honour his parents. it is industry that has been careless with peoples lives i think… taking away the soul from working… leaving people disconnected. maybe Manuel never joined a Union..?
    but personally, i long now to be in a job where human value is placed on the devoted work of an employee for all their long years of commitment. Bring on the watch or mantle-clock please!!! ;o)

  21. Nancy says:

    I have mixed feelings about the Manuel stories. Yes, as a reader I see how Manuel can better his life, but I also feel he accomplished a lot and was a responsible and caring man. There is nothing wrong he did the best that he could.

  22. Gabriela Abalo says:

    I’m touch by Manuel is a free man… is like the angels are talking to me through you .

    I’m at that stage of my life were I’m asking myself if I’m really living my life following my heart or I’m just doing what it is expected from me. I’m 38, I have a lovely husband, 2 beautiful children, a great salary, a fantastic life, etc, etc… for anyone looking from outside I have everything to be happy and nothing to worry about. But I want more than that! I do not care about economic stability because that will mean that I have to spend the rest of my life trying to keep what I got today, always afraid of losing something on the way… just a prisoner of the concept of “security”

    I want to leave every minute, second of my life as I it is the very last, without fears. I continuously asked myself “Is this how I want to live this moment? What else can I be doing right now that will be the truth desires of my heart? My heart talks about writing books, reaching to people in struggle, travelling around, freedom, meditation, healing, etc, etc… but if I’m to do that I will have to leave who I’m today behind and therefore greatly affect the lives of the ones close to me.
    Can I find the balance? Can I find the secret to contentment? Shall I try to find happiness on what I’m doing right now, knowing that I have the power to change my disposition to the present moment by just facing it from a different angle? So far I’m really trying to live life in touch with myself and even if sometimes I feel that I’m more confused than before I also know that I’m definitely happier than before… at the end that is what really matters!

    I do not want to be like Manuel… that by sure..

  23. Cat says:

    I’m happy to have read your comment Alexandra – it puts into words so well, what I had hoped to somehow say ;o)

  24. Mari Ann Ree says:

    My two sons give my life meaning. But they have to and want to live their own lives. Work and studies keep me busy. Connection to nature makes me happy. That is where much of my spirituality lies. And the Nidaros Cathedral. Knowing the spiritual power, and being able to use it is the most special part of my life. Being to use for other people is good. Good walks on nice paths in beautiful nature. I don’t think I need very much to feel content with my life. There is a void, but some day soon I hope it will be taken care of.

  25. Alexandra says:

    Seems that the story try to say that Manuel was wrong. But really,has he another dream? He did a lot of things.The worst is he is not in peace with himself. Else,there are lives much much worse than his. Hope I have not to give examples. We say each man have to plant a tree,build a house,have a children. Manuel did at list part of these .If we never happy with what we have, I dont think we ever will be happy. It would be better if he was not working,or divorce and abandon his family? Well, I dont want to judge,but each one has his place in that world. Some are born to be clerk,some to be police officers,some bakers. Why we must blame people working in office,or having a calm family life? I add the fact that not everybody have same temperament, if some are fine resting in front of tv, others go out and meet friends,or go on a trip. But is because we feel different, we are fine that or the other way. Never will behave everybody same way. And,because rainbow has so many colors, we must respect people as they are.Love, Alexandra