Stories & Reflections
By Paulo Coelho
(Here I continue to transcribe notes made during conversations with J. between 1982 and 1990)
– Bernard Shaw was right – said J. – He wrote that people take morbid pleasure in complaining all day long about the conditions in which they live. I agree with him: true men and women are those who seek out ideal conditions, and – if they are unable to find them – end up creating them.
– How does one create the conditions needed?
– A Chinese man wrote about this, thousands of years ago: by respecting the five fundamental points. However, before speaking of the five points, it must be said that the starting point is respect for oneself. One can achieve anything, but not everything; so one must know what it is one desires.
– How can we know what we desire?
– When we feel well after carrying out a certain task. Consequently, everything which causes us to lose our enthusiasm and self respect, is harmful; even if it means power, money or success. I have seen so many people suffocated by success, making mistakes which ended up destroying years of work, yielding to heavy drinking, becoming aggressive, tough, bitter. These people are distant from themselves, and distant from others.
– Tell me about the Chinaman.
– He wrote a book about war, but the five points he mentions in it apply to any task carried out by mankind.
“Item one: the law of the will. We just talked about this: one should only do that which truly fills our hearts with enthusiasm. If we brush this aside, if we put off the moment to live that which we dream of, we lose the energy necessary for any important transformation in our lives. Someone once put this most succinctly: “I don’t know the secret of success – but the secret of failure is to always try to follow the will of others.”
“Item two: the law of the seasons. Just as a war fought in winter demands different behavior and equipment from a war in the summer, human beings must learn to respect their own seasons, and not try to act when it is time to wait, not try to wait at a time of action. However, in order to make progress in anything, we must make the first move – from then on, our personal rhythm and intuition will show us how to conserve his energy.
“Item three: the law of geography. A battle in a ravine is different from one fought in a field: in the same way, one can only achieve favorable conditions by paying attention to what is going on around, to the space one is occupying, what must be done to increase it, where there may be an ambush waiting, how to escape if a momentary retreat is necessary.
“Item four: the law of the allies. No one can fight alone; friends are necessary to give us strength when we need it, people who can advise us without being afraid of what we will think. As a poet once said: “no bird can fly high, if it only uses its own wings.”
“Finally, the fifth item: the law of creativity. There is only one way of understanding things – when we try to change them. We do not always succeed, but we do learn, for we seek a path no one has been down – and the world is full of such paths. The problem is, everyone is afraid of virgin forests, uncharted seas. As one enters the unknown, one fears that one may lose oneself.
“But no one gets lost – the hand of the merciful God always lies on the heads of courageous men and women, those who dare to be different because they believe in their dreams.”
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