Paulo Coelho

Stories & Reflections

The neighbor and the trees – Part 2

Author: Paulo Coelho

Paulo Coelho


When he leaves, my first reaction is to accuse him of insensitivity and disrespect for Mother Earth. Then I become intrigued: why did he not accept to sell the land? And before the day comes to an end I understand that his life has only one story, and my neighbor does not want to change it. To move into town also means to plunge into an unknown world, with other values that perhaps he feels too old to learn.
Does this only happen to my neighbor? No, I feel that it happens to everyone – sometimes we are so attached to our way of life that we turn down a great opportunity because we don’t know how to use it. In his case, his farm and his village are the only places he knows, and it is not worth the risk. In the case of people who live in the city, they believe that it is necessary to have a university degree, get married, have children, make sure they have degrees too, and so on. Nobody ever wonders: “could I do something different?”
I remember that my barber worked day and night so that his daughter could finish her degree in sociology. She managed to finish university, and after knocking on many a door she finally found a job working as a secretary in a cement company. Even so, my barber always said with pride: “My daughter has a university degree.”
Most of my friends, and the children of my friends, also have a university degree. That does not mean they have managed to work at what they wanted – quite the contrary, they entered and left university because – at a time when universities were important – someone said that for a person to get anywhere in life, they had to have a university degree. And so the world missed out on having excellent gardeners, bakers, antique dealers, sculptors and writers. Maybe it is time to look at this again: doctors, engineers, scientists, lawyers, they all have to study at university. But does everyone else? I shall let Robert Frost’s poem give the answer:

“Two roads diverged in a wood, and
I took the one less traveled by
And that made all the difference.”

P.S. To end the story of the neighbor: the expert paid us a visit and to my surprise showed us a French law that says that trees have to stand at least three meters from the property of others. Mine stand at two meters, so I am going to have to cut them down.

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