Paulo Coelho

Stories & Reflections

Discovering the real fear

Author: Paulo Coelho

A Sultan decided to make a voyage with some of his best courtiers. They embarked at the port of Dubai and set out across the open seas.

As the ship sailed away from the land, one of his subjects, who had never seen the sea and had spent much of his life in the mountains, had a panic attack.

Everyone tried to calm him down, saying that the journey really wasn’t all that dangerous, but although their words reached his ears, they did not touch his heart.
The Sultan was ready to turn the ship around and head back to port, when one of his ministers, known for his wisdom, came over to him:
“Your Highness, with your permission, I will try to calm him down.”

The wise man ordered that the man be thrown into the sea. A group of crew members, pleased that the nightmare was about to end, dragged the struggling man up from the hold and hurled him into the ocean.

The courtier began to thrash about, he went under, swallowed salt water, came back up, shouted louder still, went down again, and again struggled to the surface.
At this point, the minister ordered that he be brought back on board the ship.

From that moment on, no one heard the slightest word of complaint from the man, who spent the rest of the voyage in silence.

Shortly before returning to port, the Sultan asked the minister:
“How did you know that you could calm the poor man down by throwing him into the sea?”

“Because of my own marriage,” replied the minister. “I was terrified of losing my wife, and I was so jealous that, like this man, I spent all my time weeping and wailing. One day, unable to stand it any longer, she left me, and I realised how awful life would be without her.

“She only came back when I promised that I would never again torture her with my fears. In the same way, this man had never tasted salt water and had never understood the agony of a man about to drown. Once he had known that experience, he understood perfectly how marvellous it is to feel the deck of a ship beneath one’s feet.”

“It is written in a book sacred to the Christians, the Bible: ‘Everything I most feared came to pass.’ Some people are only capable of valuing what they have once they have experienced its loss.”

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