The Alchemist

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I once heard it said that a person never chooses their own book, but rather the book chooses them. I firmly believe this, and feel profound gratitude that I was fortunate enough to have been chosen by The Alchemist, written by Paulo Coelho. In a lifetime, there are a handful of people that truly touch your soul, and countless others that–whether directly or indirectly, affect your life. In my own case, The Alchemist touched my soul.
It seems a lot to attribute to a book, doesn’t it? But the thing is, books are not to be undervalued in any way, for as a person might, they too can forever change your life. This story unfolds with the life of Santiago, a shepherd boy living in Spain with dreams of traveling. His journey began in the place where it would end, in an old, crumbling church. He has been troubled with a recurring dream, and decides to finally go and seek the wisdom of a fortune teller, who reveals to him that his destiny, as told by the dream, is to go out into the world and find his hidden treasure. With the blessing of his father, who also had dreams of traveling when he was young but never found the courage to do so, Santiago buys a herd of sheep with the money reserved for his inheritance, and sets off on his quest. To help him along the way is the mysterious King of Salem, whom he sells his flock to and travels to Egypt.
Throughout the book, Coelho cleverly slips in pearls of wisdoms at every opportunity, until by the time the book ends, the reader, like Santiago, has their own treasure. The entire story seems a Bible in it of itself, covering the stages of human existence in regards to their Personal Legends. The Personal Legend is the main focus of the book, which is the purpose of one’s life here on earth. According to Coelho, when we are children, every person knows exactly what their Personal Legend is, but over time a mysterious force settles in that convinces us that our dreams are impossible to fulfill, though this is the greatest lie in the world. Because we know so early in our lives what we want to do, we give up on our dreams so early as well.
After selling his flock and traveling to Egypt, Santiago is soon robbed of everything he has and must work for a crystal merchant to earn the money to buy a flock of sheep and return home, empty-handed. After earning enough coins, he decides to continue on his quest and joins a caravan that will take the treacherous journey across the desert, eventually reaching an oasis, where Santiago discovers the love of his life in a young woman named Fatima, and realizes that he would be happy simply being with her, treasure or no treasure. But the wisdom of the Alchemist that lives in the oasis spurs him on his quest, and makes him realize that he must continue his journey if he is ever to find true happiness; if he stays with Fatima, his life will be unfulfilled, and he will never be able to be truly satisfied with her because he will always remember his frustrated dream. Continuing his journey across the desert with the Alchemist, Santiago comes to learn the secrets and wisdoms of the world, reaching ultimate enlightenment when he is able to turn himself into the wind itself. He returns home to his village in Spain, where he finds his physical treasure, the spiritual one long since discovered in his journey through Egypt. The entire story is a lesson and a call to fulfill our own Personal Legends, if we are ever to find true happiness.

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