Today’s Question by the reader : Sylvie

Why, in your book The Winner Stands Alone, you chose Cannes? Have you been often to the Festival?

Indeed, I have been often to the Festival (by the way I am here now). Yet, even though the novel takes place in this movie festival, the main theme is actually fashion.

Today’s Question by the reader : Martin

Why do you tweet?

I tweet, as well as consult my blog, write in Myspace and share in Facebook because I can communicate in a direct basis with my readers.

I like the format of twitter – the short messages are a great way to get a point across quickly and directly.
I decided also to insert in the blog my tweets – in the sidebar – for readers to know what I am doing. I am in Cannes right now and want to share as much as possible.

Today’s Question by the reader : Cristina

Dear Paulo, in the beginning of Brida, there is a distinction between those who cultivate and those who build.

Does this represent a distinction between those who are linked to material things (builders), and those who are linked to spiritual things (farmers, those who cultivate)?

You can certainly apply the metaphor in the way you do.

For my part, I believe that you can also have builders and creators in the material or spiritual planes. For instance, we have dogmatic people in the spiritual plane and they tend to turn faith into something that forces others to act in a certain way. You can also have farmers in the material plane: take for instance all these webmasters that constantly shape the net without asking anything in return.

For me then the distinction is more precisely between those that are able to adapt themselves to others and the situations at hand, and those who are incapable of changing their perception.

Today’s Question by the reader : Stina

Should one listen to ones heart or brain? Or a mixture of both?

The world is a mixture of matter and spirit so: listen to your brain whenever you need to make material and practical decisions.

But listen to your heart whenever the problem at hand concerns your dreams and hopes.

As Saint Paul wrote in his letter to the Corinthians: “If I have all the eloquence of men or of angels, but speak without love, I am simply a gong booming or a cymbal clashing. If I have the gift of prophecy, understanding all the mysteries there are, and knowing everything, and if I have faith in all its fullness, to move mountains, but without love, then I am nothing at all. If I give away all that I possess, piece by piece, and if I even let them take my body to burn it, but am without love, it will do me no good whatever.”

Today’s Question by the reader : Nikolet

I would like to ask you: What were you writing before you wrote your first book and before you became a famous writer? What did you do, did you write some short stories or something in a diary?

Indeed, before I gathered up enough confidence to follow my personal legend, I worked in the music industry writing lyrics for songs. I also kept a diary.

Once I finally managed to write my first book – The Pilgrimage in 1986 – I stop all other “writing activities” and now only write books.

Today’s Question by the reader : Adrien

What would be your view in the term ‘cheating’ and ‘faithful’ in a relationship?

“Cheating” and “Faithfulness” have the same meaning either you place them in a relationship or if you apply them to to yourself as an individual.

“Cheating” means when you lie to yourself, when you hide your feelings and judge yourself too harshly.

“Faithfulness” means when you are able to overcome your fears, shortcomings and flaws and be able to forgive.

Relationships, in my eyes, are built on the firm ground of trust and compassion. They crumble when we decide to be something other than what we truly are.

Today’s Question by the reader : Heidy

If you have to choose between a person you love and a person you trust in, which one would you choose? In other words, what’s more important in a relationship: love or trust?

Ask yourself this question : would you prefer to be loved or trusted?

From my point of view – love and trust walk hand in hand. Love without trust is just passion, and trust without love is law.

Today’s Question by the reader : Carolyne

Just having finished reading Brida, I find myself touched and compelled to ask you this question. I believe I have been blessed and am living a life driven by the Tradition of the Sun, but what is the best way for me to rekindle the flame and its power in time of doubt and weakness?

I am at a transformative time in my life, therefore I may be experiencing the Tradition of the Moon, and feel the world’s energies channeling through me, which are leaving me physically weak and in need of guidance.

Whenever in doubt or feeling weak, you should first accept that this is an intrinsic part of life. Let this moment cross you, do not deny it – because if you do, you will be shutting a part of existence from your life.

Of course, there’s a time where you feel the need to move onwards and for this to happen, focus on the blessings and the path of light that stretches before you.

As a friend once said: “First, Count your blessings in this world, rather than turning everything down for paradise”.

Today’s Question by the reader : Inga

When do we know that our dreams are not just ambitions – some ideas which were put on us by society, family etc. Where is that borderline of doing thing to please others, or doing something to fulfill our destiny? Because I would even say that the recognition I get from others is what most motivates me.

Dear Inga,
As king Solomon wrote “Vanity of vanities, all is vanity!” So there’s nothing wrong in seeking recognition – because either way all is the consequence of our ego (be it good or bad).

The borderline though between society’s dream and yours is to be found within yourself. Other’s cheers and encouragements are to be seen as a consequence of your actions, not as the cause. Would you stop doing something that you love, simply because you lose an audience?

Others cheers are of course a balm but you equally need to have the courage to persist in your dream despite the challenges.

Today’s question by the reader : Nataly

What is love?

Love cannot be defined like this. Love is in motion, it is an energy that permeates all that is around us – if we dare to perceive it.
Love is.

Today’s question by the reader: Clelia

How does someone know that you are doing what you are meant to be doing in this life?

When they feel enthusiasm in their hearts. Without this inner light, our actions become senseless.

Question by the reader : Laura

My question to you is this: in the prologue you speak of how you had spoken to a lady who had told you her story and that you had based the story on her.. is this true? was there really a “Brida”? Is the character based on a person you really knew?

Indeed, this character is a real . Of course, some of the parts of the book are metaphors of my own journey in this life. But Brida exists and provided me with the starting point for this story.

Question by the reader : Alexandra

I had read your book “By the River Piedra I Sat Down and Wept”. I know is a love story, Pillar and her boyfriend will stay together defeating all that was against their love. The thing I don’t understand is what is the meaning of the title .In the book I noticed quotes from the Bible, exactly a psalm, about river Babylon, and the sorrow of the defeated people. Is it a connection to Pillars sadness while she thought she will never be with her lover? Thank you so much, hoping for a reply, if you have some time.

Your interpretation is correct. I was inspired by this psalm from David: “By the rivers of Babylon, There we sat down and wept, When we remembered Zion.”

Today’s Question by the reader : Magdalena

What is for you an outstanding literary work and / or writer?

Writers that manage to change people’s perception and consequently their lives – are to me the greatest writers. In my particular case, writers such as Henri Miller, Khalil Gibran, William Blake and Jorge Luis Borges changed my life. They showed me that the world was much bigger, richer than I could have phantom on my own. They also gave the thirst to experience life – and this is was my life saver.

Today’s Question by the reader : Susan

I wonder if there is anything like ‘unconditional love’? Why does love cause hurt, if its unconditional?

Definitely there is unconditional love. This love, in its very core, comes from within. It is what moves us in the direction of our true selves.

There’s a beautiful quote in the Upanishads that states:

“In all persons, all creatures, the Self is the innermost essence. And it is identical with Brahman: our real Self is not different from the ultimate Reality called God.”

Be careful when you say that “love hurts” – it is not love that is painful, but its absence.

Question by the reader : Savita Vega

You say that you only start a novel once every two years, which you then complete in a few short weeks. During this two-year period, you say that the book is “being written in your soul.” I have two specific questions: When do you first conceive of the idea for your new book – at some point during that two-year period, or at the moment when you first sit down to write it? Secondly, do you spend that two years thinking about the book and working it out in your mind, or do you simply sit down, with no prior concept of the work and just see where the writing leads you?

Dear Savita,
This is always variable.
In the case of the Alchemist for instance I knew I had to move from my previous book The Pilgrimage that is a non-fiction book. I knew I had to write a fiction but it took me a couple of months to find the right thread. During this time I felt a state of urgency in my soul but I couldn’t force things either. So I had to live with an intuition and also wait for it to flourish.
In the case of other books – such as The Winner Stands Alone – I simply let myself live. I went to Cannes film festival in 2007 and there I felt something was wrong – I couldn’t understand how this particular universe functioned and gradually felt drawn to understand it. Before I knew that was a story in my imagination.

Today’s Question by the reader : Fabienne

Why do we feel the need to protect ourselves from happiness?

We often run away from happiness because of guilt: of reaching our goals, our accomplishing our dreams. It is a very bizarre logic – we keep on striving to be happy and once we manage to achieve our goal we feel we don’t disserve it.

Actually, we wish to entertain an image of ourselves – as victims – and this in my eyes is just another way of being vain. We torture ourselves because we would like to be something we are not and this is why we turn away from happiness.

In my eyes, to be able to accept happiness is to forgive ourselves and accept ourselves as we truly are – not as we would wish ourselves to be. Acceptance and humility are the cornerstones of joy.

Today’s Question by Maya

You won your first award in a school poetry contest. Do you read poetry now? What authors? Is it an inspiration for you now?

Actually it was my sister who won this poetry contest with one of my poems. She wanted to take part in this poetry contest but asked me to write something. I wrote the poem, but feeling it wasn’t good enough, I threw in the bin. She sneaked into my room and got it, later to win the contest. I remember my surprise at this, and today I feel it was one of these decisive moments where you say to yourself: I’m able to do it.

Today I read more novels than poetry but every once in a while, I’m drawn back to one of my favorite writers: William Blake. I also like to re-read Brazilian poets such as Manuel Bandeira or the Portuguese Fernando Pessoa.

To give an example of how much poetry inspires me: for my book, Like the Flowing River, I got this image out of one of Bandera’s poems that goes like this:

“Be like a river that flows
Silent in the middle of the night
Not fearing the dark of the night,
Reflecting any star that is in the sky.
And if the sky fills with clouds,
Clouds are water, like the river, so
Reflect them too with no regret In the silent depth.”

Today’s Question by the reader : Manuel

In your writing, how do you cope with the relationship between reality and fantasy?

I don’t distinguish reality from fantasy because I think that reality encompass emotion, faith, fears… All these things we carry in our soul are certainly invisible to the eye – but not the heart.

We all know when we are sad, happy, nostalgic or enthusiastic. This emotional input then touches all the material things we do. In our work for instance this is obvious. It is impossible to perform a good work when we are down – and the opposite is equally true.

Furthermore, fantasy is not made up of unsubstantial dreams, fruitless desires. Fantasy is what feeds the imagination, is what drives us beyond what others may consider to be the limits.
Fantasy is then constantly feeding the real world and this is why I believe that reality is the greatest mystery.

Today’s Question by the reader : Rosa

Dear Paulo,
Does living have any finality? Do I truly have a mission? Or is my passage in this world a matter of chance?

Dear Rosa,
It’s impossible for any human being to answer your question with utter authority.
But I see your question from another angle : what happens if you were to discover that life is meaningless?
As you can see – there’s a contradiction in here. If you are to “know” something about life, it will always be something that you can understand – even if it’s absurd.
As you can see, you can’t escape from meaning – and therefore I take the stand that there’s a mission for each and every one of us: to live the life that we choose.
To accomplish our mission is to walk the path of our personal legend.
Last but not least – if are passage in this world is a matter of chance – embrace that chance. It’s a miracle.