Another beautiful day in Madrid; sunshine, sky so blue it’s almost purple, light breeze. As soon as I woke up I headed to a café close by to read and people watch while I enjoyed a coffee. While I was staying on the Perhentian Islands, one of the locals gave me a book called The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho. Someone had given it to him, he told me as he put the slim paperback in my hands, with the message that if he read it all of his dreams would come true. Maybe the same would happen for me, he suggested with a serious look in his eyes.
The book was fantastic. I immediately fell in love with the style of writing, the message being portrayed, the truth behind the words. I finished quickly, and afterwards was craving something with the same sort of substance, so I purchased another of Paulo’s books: The Pilgrimage. I had no idea what the plot of the story was before I started reading, so imagine my surprise when it turned out to be an account of Paulo’s first time walking the Camino de Santiago-a 500 mile ancient pilgrimage path that I myself will start walking in just a few weeks. Sometimes life’s coincidences are funny that way. Anyways, the point of all this back story is that today, as I was reading The Pilgrimage under the flawless Spanish sky, I got to a part that is so perfect, so relevant and applicable to all of our lives, that I have to share.
At this particular point in the story, Paulo has been walking for a couple of weeks, accompanied by his Guide, who brings to light various lessons throughout their time together. In this particular instance, the lesson to be learned focuses on dreams.
“The good fight is one that’s fought in the name of our dreams. When we’re young and our dreams first explode inside us with all of their force, we are very courageous, but we haven’t yet learned how to fight. With great effort, we learn how to fight, but by then we no longer have the courage to go into combat. So we turn against ourselves and do battle within. We become our own worst enemy. We say that our dreams were childish, or too difficult to realize, or the result of our not having known enough about life. We kill our dreams because we are afraid to fight the good fight.“
“The first symptom of the process of our killing our dreams is the lack of time…the busiest people I have known in my life always have time enough to do everything. Those who do nothing are always tired and pay no attention to the little amount of work they are required to do. They complain constantly that the day is too short. The truth is, they are afraid to fight the good fight.”
“The second symptom of the death of our dreams lies in our certainties. Because we don’t want to see life as a grand adventure, we begin to think of ourselves as wise and fair and correct in asking so little of life. We look beyond the walls of our day-to-day existence, and we hear the sound of lances breaking, we smell the dust and the sweat, and we see the great defeats and the fire in the eyes of the warriors. But we never see the delight, the immense delight in the hearts of those who are engaged in the battle. For them, neither victory nor defeat is important; what’s important is only that they are fighting the good fight.”
“And finally, the third symptom of the passing of our dreams is peace. Life becomes a Sunday afternoon; we ask for nothing grand, and we cease to demand anything more than we are willing to give. In that state, we think of ourselves as being mature; we put aside the fantasies of our youth, and we seek personal and professional achievement. We are surprised when people our age say that they still want this or that out of life. But really, deep in our hearts, we know that what has happened is that we have renounced the battle for our dreams-we have refused to fight the good fight.”
“When we renounce our dreams and find peace…we go through a short period of tranquility. But the dead dreams begin to rot within us and to infect our entire being. We become cruel to those around us, and then we begin to direct this cruelty against ourselves. That’s when illnesses and psychoses arise. What we sought to avoid in combat-disappointment and defeat-came upon us because of our cowardice. And one day, the dead, spoiled dreams make it difficult to breath, and we actually seek death. It’s death that frees us from our certainties, from our work, and from that terrible peace of our Sunday afternoons.”
Like I said, fantastic book with an awesome message. Hope you’re all able to fight the good fight today.