Paulo Coelho

Stories & Reflections

The accommodating point

Author: Paulo Coelho

In one of my books (The Zahir), I try to understand why people are so afraid of changing. When I was right in the middle of writing the text, I came across an odd interview with a woman who had just written a book on – guess what? – love.

The journalist asks whether the only way a human being can become happy is to find their beloved. The woman says no:

“Love changes, and nobody understands that. The idea that love leads to happiness is a modern invention, dating from the late 17th century. From that time on, people have learned to believe that love should last for ever and that marriage is the best way to exercise love. In the past there was not so much optimism about the longevity of passion.

“Romeo and Juliet isn’t a happy story, it’s a tragedy. In the last few decades, expectation has grown a lot regarding marriage being the path towards personal accomplishment. Disappointment and dissatisfaction have also grown at the same time.”

According to the magical practices of the witchdoctors in the North of Mexico, there is always an event in our lives that is responsible for our having stopped making progress. A trauma, a particularly bitter defeat, disappointment in love, even a victory that we fail to quite understand, ends up making us act cowardly and incapable of moving ahead. The witchdoctor, trying to connect with the occult powers, first of all needs to get rid of this “accommodating point”. To do so, he has to review our life and discover where this point lies.

When I was young, I was always fighting, always hitting the others, because I was the oldest in the gang. One day my cousin gave me a beating. That convinced me that I would never again manage to win a fight, and I began to avoid any physical confrontation, even though this meant that I was often taken for a coward, and let myself be humiliated in front of girlfriends and companions. Until one day, when I was 22, I ended up unwillingly getting into a fight in a nightclub in Rio de Janeiro. I got beaten up, but the “accommodating point” went away. Nowadays I no longer fight, not out of cowardice but rather because it’s a terrible way of expressing oneself.

For two years I tried to learn to play the guitar: I made a lot of progress in the beginning, until I reached the point where I could advance no further. Because I discovered that others learned faster than I did, I felt mediocre and decided that instead of feeling ashamed I was no longer interested in playing the guitar. The same happened with snooker, football, cycling: I learned enough to do everything fairly well, but then reached a point where I could go no further.


Because, according to the story that we were told, at a certain moment in our lives “we reach our limit”. There are no more changes to be made. We won’t grow any more. Both professionally and in love, we have reached the ideal point, and it’s best to leave things as they are. But the truth is that we can always go further. Love more, live more, risk more.

Immobility is never the best solution. Because everything around us changes (including love) and we must accompany that rhythm.

I have been married to the same person for 28 years, but I have changed “wives” (and she has changed “husbands”) several times during our relationship. If we wanted to keep on as we were in 1979, I don’t think we would have come so far.

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