Paulo Coelho

Stories & Reflections

Manuel is a free man – Part 2

Author: Paulo Coelho

Paulo Coelho


He looks for someone to share his opinions – but they are all immersed in the river of life, working, doing something, envying Manuel his freedom and at the same time happy to be useful to society, to be “busy” at something important.

Manuel seeks for comfort in his children. They always treat him with great affection – he has been an excellent father, an example of honesty and dedication – but they too have other worries, although they consider Sunday lunch a duty.

Manuel is a free man, enjoys a reasonable financial situation, is well-informed, has an impeccable past, but what now? What to do with all this freedom, won with such hardship? Everyone greets him, everyone praises him, but no-one has any time for him. Little by little Manuel begins to feel sad and useless – despite all the years he has spent serving the world and his family.

One night an angel appears in his dream: “What have you done with your life? Did you try to live it according to your dreams?”

Manuel wakes up in a cold sweat. What dreams? This was his dream: to have a diploma, to get married, to have children, to give them an education, to retire, to travel. Why was the angel bothering him with all these senseless questions?

Another long day begins: the newspapers, the news on the TV, the garden and lunch. Sleep a little, do whatever you feel like doing and at that very moment discover that you do not feel like doing anything. Manuel is a free and sad man, one step away from depression, because he was always too busy to think about the meaning of life, while the years flowed by under the bridge. He remembers the lines of a poem: “he passed through life/but did not live.”

But it is too late to accept that, so better change the subject. Freedom, conquered with so much struggling, is just exile in disguise.

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