Paulo Coelho

Stories & Reflections

Twenty years later

Author: Paulo Coelho

Sitting in a Leon garden, staring at the river that flows, today’s date: 27th of March.

Next to me, my wife Christina is reading a book. Spring has started in Europe and we can now put our sweaters inside the trunk. We have been driving for many days, going through places that marked our lives (Christina has walked the Saint James’ Path in 1990). Even though we have been travelling unhurriedly, we managed to cover 500 kilometres in only a week.

Mineral water. Coffee.

People talking, people walking.

People that also drink their coffee and their mineral water.

That’s how I go 20 years back, to an afternoon of July or August 1986. Coffee, mineral water, people talking and walking – but this time the scenery is composed of plains that stretch along Castrojeriz, my birthday is approaching, I have already gone from Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port a long time ago, and I’m at the middle of the way that will lead me to Saint James of Compostella.

My walking speed: 20 kilometres per day.

I look ahead towards the monotonous landscape, the guide is also drinking his coffee by a bar that seems to have appeared from nowhere. I look back towards that same monotonous landscape but the only difference is that this time the dust of the floor has my shoes sole marks printed on it. This is temporary though: the wind will erase them before night fall.

Everything looks unreal.

What am I doing here? This question keeps on following me, even though many weeks have passed.

I’m searching for a sword. I’m accomplishing a ritual that I learned from RAM, a small catholic order, that has no secrets or mysteries besides trying to understand the symbolic language of the world. I’m starting to think that I’ve been cheated, that the spiritual quest makes no sense and has no logic, and that maybe the best thing to do would be to go back to Brazil and do what I’ve always been doing.

I doubt of my sincerity in this quest because it gives too much work to look for a God that never reveals himself, of praying at the right time, of walking strange paths, of being disciplined, of accepting orders that seems to me to be absurd.

That’s it: I doubt of my sincerity. For all these days Petrus has been saying that the path is for all, for common people, an idea that truly disappoints me. I thought that all the work I had would grant me a unique place among the happy few that got near to the Universe’s archetypes. I thought that I would finally discover that all the tales regarding the secret government of wise men in Tibet, of magic potions capable of arousing love where before not even attraction existed, of rituals where suddenly the gates of Heaven would open themselves, were true.

But it’s precisely the opposite that Petrus has been telling me: there are no “chosen ones”. All are chosen if instead of asking themselves “what am I doing here?” they choose to do something that would arouse the enthusiasm in their hearts. The gates of Heaven are to be found in doing a work with enthusiasm. That’s how love is transformed and guides us closer to God.

This is the enthusiasm that connects us with the Holy Spirit and not the hundreds, thousands of classical texts. It’s the belief that life is a miracle that enables miracles to happen, not the “secret rituals” or the “initiatic orders”. In a nutshell, it is Man’s decision to follow his destiny that turns him into a Man, not the theories that he develops around the mystery of life.

And here I am. At the middle of the way that leads me to Saint James of Compostella. If things are as simple as he says, why this pointless adventure?

(Next text will be posted on the 22.04.2006)

Subscribe to Blog

Join 17K other subscribers

Stories & Reflections


Paulo Coelho Foundation

Gifts, keepsakes and other souvenirs