Stories & Reflections
By Paulo Coelho
During the recent move to my new apartment, I found a series of notes of my conversations with J., who belongs to the R.A.M. order, a small brotherhood devoted to the study of oral traditions and the world’s symbolic language. These notes cover our meetings from February 1982 through to 1990.
I recently asked him whether I might share parts of these texts; he agreed, and some have already been published in the first two issues of Warrior of the Light Online. I have transformed the texts into dialogue for better reading, and the words are not exactly those used by J., although the content is absolutely faithful to that which I heard.
These texts are not in exact chronological order. I decided to begin with some of our conversations from 1986, which was when he insisted I go on the Road to Santiago.
– You said that going on the Road to Santiago is important. For it, one must give up everything for some time: family, work, projects. And I don’t know whether I’ll find everything the same when I return.
– Indeed I hope you won’t.
– So should I take the risk of losing everything I have conquered up to now?
– Lose what? A man only has a soul to be won or lost; apart from his life, he has nothing. Past or future lives do not matter – at the moment you are living this one, and you should do so with silent comprehension, joy and enthusiasm. What you must not lose is your enthusiasm.
– I have a wife, whom I love.
– (laughing) That is the most common excuse, and the most foolish of all. Love has never prevented a man from following his dreams. If she truly loves you, she will want the best for you. And anyway, you do not have a woman whom you love; the woman is not yours. What is yours is the energy of love, which you aim at her. You can do that from anywhere.
– And what if I had no money for the pilgrimage?
– Traveling is not always a question of money, but of courage. You spent a great part of your life going around the world like a hippie: what money did you have then? None. You could hardly afford the tickets, and nevertheless I believe they were some of the best years of your life – eating badly, sleeping at railway stations, unable to communicate because of the language, being forced to depend on others just in order to find some shelter to spend the night.
“Traveling is sacred; mankind has traveled ever since the dawn of time, in search of hunting and grazing ground, or milder climates. Very few men manage to understand the world without leaving their home towns. When you travel – and I am not speaking of tourism, but of the solitary experience of a journey – four important things occur in your life:
a] one is in a different place, so the protective barriers no longer exist. To begin with this can be alarming, but soon one gets used to it and starts understanding how many interesting things there are beyond the walls of one’s garden.
b] since solitude can be great and oppressive, one is more open to people one would not normally exchange a single word with, back home – waiters, other travelers, hotel staff, the passenger in the next seat in the bus.
c] one starts depending on others for everything: finding a hotel, buying something, knowing how to catch the next train. One begins to realize that there is nothing wrong with depending on others – on the contrary, it is a blessing.
d] one speaks in a language one doesn’t understand, uses money whose worth one does not know, and wanders down streets for the very first time. One knows the old I, with all it learned, is completely useless in the face of these new challenges – and begins discovering that, buried deep down in one’s unconscious, there is something far more interesting, adventurous, open to the world and to new experiences.
“To travel is the experience of ceasing to be the person you are trying to be, and becoming the person you really are.”
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