Today’s Question by the reader : Sandra Jacobs

Mr Coelho, my dream is to write a book. I have often wondered which book to write, but the problem is not the topic, but to make that first step, as most of your books teach, and to live your dream. I am not Catholic, but Protestant and I respect your religion, because through all your work it is very clear that you believe in god and trust in Him.

And as Christian, we learn the story of Jesus walking on the water, and one of the Lessons to be learn from the story, is that in order to walk on the water, we need to first get out of the boat!

And my problem is that I need the motivation, to make the first step and get out of my boat!

Dear Sandra,

I can totally relate with this first difficulty – it took me 40 years to be able to write my first book (The Pilgrimage).

I remember how much I turned away from the white page, how difficult it was to simply seat down and write. Furthermore I had to go to a far away land and walk the sacred path of Santiago in order to finally come down to writing.

I think the only advice I can give you is this : seat down and write – anything that comes to your head and keep going. At first you may feel stuck, but with time, if you continue on your quest of storytelling, you will see how the first barrier was only an illusion.

Today’s Question by the reader : Joshua Wilde

Hello,

When the subject of gender equality is brought up regarding Santiago’s quest for treasure versus Fatima’s fate of simply waiting for Santiago, how do you respond?

Do you feel it is sexist to give Santiago a Personal Legend involving travel, treasure and adventure while making Fatima’s Personal Legend a man, thereby causing her to simply wait for his return in order to be fulfilled?

It almost sounds like you’re saying women need only the love of men to be fulfilled and to grow spiritually, but men, in addition to needing the love of women, also need to follow their passions…and if that means that women have to wait around forever doing the necessary household chores, so be it.

I suspect that this was not your intended message, so if you would share your thoughts on these themes and what they symbolize to you, it would be much appreciated!

Dear Joshua,

Indeed, when I wrote the story of The Alchemist, I wasn’t thinking on gender terms. It is impossible in my eyes to tell a story having a “politically correct” agenda.

Having said this, even though Fatima portrays the condition of women in traditional cultures, I don’t believe women today are to be confined to the house-wife status at all.

In other books of mine, especially in The Zahir, I show the personal legend of a woman that feels the need to part from her loved one.

I believe there are as many personal legends as there are people in this world. If a woman feels her personal legend is to wait for her love – then it’s valid in my eyes (and not degrading at all). In the other hand if a woman feels her soul is asking for other things, then it’s equally valid. We should all focus in what truly makes us happy.

Today’s Question by the reader : Sam

Dear Paulo,

I understand that your message is to follow our dreams. But what happens after we realize our dream? Should we feel complete fulfillment? And if yes then how does it feel? I found that I never feel completely content. Does it mean that I follow wrong dreams? I would imagine that when I feel completely at peace that means that I realized the right dream.

Dear Sam,

Realizing our dreams is a daily effort. There’s no such thing as the “end of the line” in this field. So not only can I understand your dissatisfaction as well as I share the same feeling. I’m never satisfied and I never look upon my dream – being a writer – as totally accomplished. Life is about new challenges. Total peace can only be found in death, in my eyes.

Today’s Question by the reader : Christian

I’ve always wondered why is it that society, especially western society, has equated misery with holiness? It is obvious that as the Buddha once said, “Life is suffering” however, people seem to have this preconceived notion that ‘the more I suffer, especially unnecessarily, the holier I will be to God/society.’

Similarly why don’t people strive for joy instead of trying to avoid suffering?

I don’t know…maybe it’s just me, but these religious beliefs seem irreligious to me.

Dear Christian,

This is also a question I pondered over many times in my life. Why all this guilt, why the preconceived notion that depriving oneself from the joys of life may bring some sort of afterlife reward? Why is it that the image of Jesus in the cross, suffering, is the one that is used by the Church?

I don’t know how or when exactly this notion of suffering became the rule – especially in the Christian faith – but what I do know is that the religious experience goes beyond this vision. Compassion in my eyes is the real message of the great messengers of Humanity. It’s by focusing on their examples of life, their experience and their message that we can clearly see that there is a way out of all this guilt, which ultimately is this fear that binds and blinds people.

Today’s Question by the reader : Ken

How significant will the arts play in world relations and shedding light in a dark world?

Dear Ken,

I believe that the arts – and in particular storytelling – are one of the rare bridges left between cultures.
There are so many divides between people nowadays but I believe that a story has this immense power to bring people together. This is because it basically speaks to something that never alters in people : their hearts and imagination.

Today’s Question by the reader : Ghaida

Dear Mr. Paulo Coelho,

How were you dealing with the times that you strongly wanted to follow a dream, but in the same time, you have to deal with a more important priority, like education, work or family? How can you tame that wild child inside that needs to be pleased?

Dear Ghaida,

I’m afraid I can’t really help you with this question because I never refused the “wild child” within.
Those who truly love you will encourage you to follow your dream and let this tremendous amount of enthusiasm and energy manifest itself.

Today’s Question by the reader : Phil Condra

What is your definition of “Personal Legend”? Why is it so important to recognize?

Dear Phil, The personal legend is your distinctive path in this world. It is dictated by your own standards – not the ones society or family imposes to you.

It is in a way your destiny but with this subtlety: you choose to realize your goal in life. it is not something that is independent of your will.

The importance of this, for me at least, is obvious: you live your life according to your own rules and walk your path with enthusiasm.

Today’s Question by reader : Sheela Nandini

Dearest Paulo,

Do you believe in reincarnation? Do you have the experience of having lived on this earth in other lives, other times?
In Brida you talk in depth about the soul dividing and that is why we may meet more than one soul mate in a lifetime. The Bhagavad Gita says the soul is indestructible, that water cannot wet it, fire cannot burn it, the wind cannot dry it and the sword cannot pierce it(and In The Flowing River you have quoted this verse). Please do share your views on this. And thank you for this link where I can finally address you on the blog! Ah! Thank You.

Dear Sheela,

more than to believing or not in reincarnation, I think that it is interesting that you quote the Bhagavad Gita about the imperishable soul.
In a way, the idea of reincarnation is not at all linked with this concept of indestructible and imperishable soul. Indeed, the soul exists despite our manifested world.
Our world is a world of mutation whereas the soul is above this constant flow.
The spirit is the spark that lives in each one of us – and hasn’t got anything to do with the ego – which is a result of our distance with the divine.

Love
Paulo

Today’s Question by reader : Gary Don Davis

Dear Sir,

I have long thought of an inner voice, something that is inherent to all of us, just to have people look at me as if I am crazy.. My question is this: is this voice innate? Is this second voice or inner voice tempered or changed by our life and it’s past experiences, or is it something that is part of our consciousness from the moment of our birth, and it says what it says to us regardless of our experiences? Can we change what it says, or is it there from God regardless of what we live through. Is it simply our conscious? And how do you know that you are listening to this voice and it is being true to you, and doesn’t have a selfish agenda fueled by its own selfish motives?

Dear Gary,

to be able to hear our inner voice is in itself a journey. This inward quest for our true self may seem alien at first but – as a north star – it guides us, as long as we have faith.
I don’t think it is consciousness that guides us to our inner self – it is actually something that is outside of ourselves that murmur to our soul.
To be able to distinguish the true voice from our desires is also a path : in the beginning there will be many mistakes, false leads. But with time and forgiveness, we start hearing this voice more clearly and we develop our own silenced “alphabet”.

Love
Paulo

Today’s Question by the reader : John

Hello, Do you see a difference between knowing something and believing something?

Dear John,
there is a difference.
Knowning means that you perceive something only with the eye of the mind, that you can understand “how” something works. It’s basically rational.
Believing in the other hand is to perceive something with the heart, with your intuition and not being preocupied with demonstrating it’s true or not. Belief is then a leap of faith, the taking of a risk, the acceptance of the mystery.
Of course, many turn their beliefs into marble and this can cause a lot of misery.
But I think that if one beliefs with humility and temperance, then belief is the road leads to the core of life.

Today’s Question by the reader : Cindy Swain

Hello Paulo,

First off, it is truly an honor to write you this email. I read, The Alchemist, while trekking through the Himalayas a few months ago, and your message is parallel to how, at 25, I am trying to live my life. It is inspiring to read your words which are weighted with passion and desire to live life.

I have spent the past ten months traveling the world. It was an experience of a lifetime, and one that has changed me in so many ways. I want to write about this experience, but am not about to write a memoir because–who is Cindy Swain?–exactly, I don’t think many people know or would care to find out. I do, however, have a thousand stories that can entertain and I want to spread the message of how important it is to leave the comfort of your home…to challenge yourself to explore new places…and to experience culture while it still exists.

In light of this, my question to you is:

What are your guidelines for writing about what you’ve experienced and making sure that the story is fictionalized (i.e. the famous statement that “all of the events in the story are coincidental”)? For example, I grew up in a small town of 1,500 people and have spent the last 10 months traveling throughout New Zealand, China, Southeast Asia, the Middle East and Europe. Can my main character also be from a small town? Can she also go on an around the world trip to the same countries? Could she participate in the same events that I did?

In other words, what is your advice and guidelines on how I can use my experience in writing a fictional novel, and how close can I get to describing the truth (in setting, description, events, emotions) but still have it remain a fiction rather than a memoir?

Dear Cindy,

When I wrote The Alchemist I was experiencing exactly the same questionings as you.

I had written before a non-fiction book about my pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela (The Pilgrimage) and I knew that I had to turn myself to fiction, in order to grow as a writer.

I had though, many things from my life that I felt I still had to share with others. That’s how the idea of using Santiago’s story as a metaphor for my life came up.

I think in your case – you are the only one able to truly draw the line between fiction and reality. Never lose sight of the fact that dreams feed reality and vice-versa.

Also, simply start writing: see where this will lead you.

Question by the reader Elizabeth Tyrrell

Do you have any advice for young writers who are writing/channeling information which is truly unique to them or anyone around them – how do you push through and keep moving forward?

Dear Elizabeth,
the only advice I can give is the following : keep on knocking every door. It’s always difficult in the beginning, but if you truly believe in what you’re doing, keep on running those risks. Life tend to be very generous with those that follow their dreams.

Today’s Question by the reader : Lilianne

What have you got to say about the fear of being different?

In all my books I approach this issue. In all my writings I talk about the importance of accepting one’s differences. Since my childhood, I’ve been drawn to it. It was very important to me to accept my differences.

Today’s Question by the reader : Elizabeth

What does Jesus Christ mean to you?

In my book, The Witch of Portobello, the main character, Athena, at one point can’t take the communion. This is for her a turning point where she understands that inside the catholic dogma there’s no space for true forgiveness, that the Church has inflexible rules that sadly too often exclude believers.

I remembered, while writing this scene a passage from Dostoyevsky’s … where the inquisitor feels obliged to incarcerate Jesus because he’s not “convenient” for the clerical institution.

So, for me, as I wrote in my book, Jesus is the one that is standing outside the church, telling Athena, as well as all the people that are excluded and repudiated by the strict dogmas of the church:

‘My child, I’ve been excluded too. It’s a very long time since they’ve allowed me in there.’

Today’s Question by the reader : Amit

Where do you find inspiration? Is it true that some of your novels (except ‘The Pilgrimage’ and ‘The Valkyries’, which are autobiographical) are inspired by problems and lifes of people””of your readers and journalists””who you met?

You see, you don’t find inspiration; you nurture it. This is because even if something amazing happens to you, if you’re closed up and merely centred in yourself, you’re unable to see it. It’s like being blind to the sun. I try then, everyday, to get out of myself and see the world with childish eyes. When you do this you can learn from everyone.

And writing is precisely that: learn from yourself and others, everyday.

Flaubert once said that he was Mme Bovary, well, I am my books and they are part of my soul. My characters allow me to explore my soul since they incarnate all my doubts and hopes.

Today’s Question by the reader : Catherine

In the Alchemist you write that the whole universe will work with us if we really want something. This feeling was really clear when I was a little girl because when I wanted something “magically” they would come to me, but only if I really wanted them, in ways that shouldn’t be possible…… Now I am a grown up woman, and I am still looking for that feeling, and I am trying to clear my mind, and go back to the innocent and faith that children have in their dreams. I know that you have had a complex life, and had to work through troubles earlier in life, what made that big change, if there has been a big change?

Dear Catherine, let’s forget “if”. This word should be erased from your life dictionary. I am who I am, and I am glad that I did not quit my dream when all odds were against me. So, there is no “if”. The changes were there, and I gladly accept the challenges of changing.

Today’s Question by the reader : Livia

What do you dream of for the future, on a personal level as well as for humanity?

My dream for the future is to live the present. It is only through one’s presence in this world that things can truly manifest themselves. I believe that unfortunately too often men and women are absent from their actions and caught up in their fears, illusions and desires. One just needs to focus in the present moment and understand that the simplest things are the most extraordinary ones. With this knowledge everyone can first change itself and the world would simply follow.

Today’s Question by the reader : Leila

We know your messages from your books, but can you summerize with your own words, what’s are the most important things of a human life ?

Not to be paralysed by fear in the path of our dreams.

Today’s Question by the reader : Sefer Jan

Dear Paulo;
I am writing in the youth magazine Gení§ Gelisin which is published monthly in Turkey.
I am writing about great people and their steps, rules, recipes, principles they practiced in their life. For example “Mahatma Gandhi and 7 Deadly Sins”.
I want to know, what are basic (important) principles for you (and that you advise to others) to live happy life and die with a smile in your eyes.
I want to write an article in this magazine about your life, but especially about your (according to you) secrets of happiness.
I will be very glad to hear from you.
Thank you.

There is not a secret for happiness, which for me is actually a very abstract notion. I think that what truly matters is one’s commitment to life, to one’s beliefs, to what one consider essential.
Those who believe that in order to understand the world one has to be outside of it are falling in a trap. To be able to experience life is to be able to be in the center of its turmoil.
For those that would like further insights on this, I suggest the movie “Revolutionary Road”.

Today’s Question by the reader : Severin

In The Zahir, Mikhail, Esther’s mysterious friend, conducts evenings during which audience members share their relationship experiences. Often these ‘confessions’ consist of nothing more than a small detail. How do you think such observations are important in trying to reach an understanding of love?

God (and the Devil) lives in the details. So does love and hate.