Have you ever wondered how life would have been if you had chased your dreams. Have you experienced the strange longing for all the dreams of your childhood which you gave up as you grew? Perhaps life may not have been so secure but could have been beautiful, could have been perfect, could have been complete? These are some of the thoughts that pop in your mind as you read The Alchemist.
“When a person really desires something, all the universe conspires to help that person realize his dream”, this quote from The Alchemist remains with me even now, after so many months of reading it. The book is full of symbolism and metaphors. It inspired me to write a post in my company’s internal blog on the power of metaphors.
The story is about a Spanish shepherd boy named Santigo who has recurring dream about a hidden treasure in pyramids of Egypt. He is advised by a Gypsy to go to Egypt in search of the treasure. The whole story is about Santigo’s journey and his ultimate discovery of the hidden treasure. The story is narrated like a fairy tale with strange characters like, the king of Selam who helps him embark on the journey. He says, “…When you really want something, it is because the desire originated in the soul of the universe. It’s your mission on earth…. The soul of the world is nourished by people’s happiness”….”God has prepared a path for everyone to follow. You just have to read the Omens that he left for you”
Santigo goes to Africa and from then on his journey is full of twists and turns. He works for a merchant then meets an Englishman who has come in search of the alchemist and finally reaches an oasis where he meets the love of his life and also the alchemist. He continues on his hunt for the treasure along with the Alchemist and he picks up many pearls of wisdom on the way
“the desert will give you an understanding of the world; in fact anything on the face of earth will do that…all you have to do is contemplate a simple grain of sand and you will see in it all the marvels of creation”
“you will never be able to escape from your heart. So it’s better to listen to what it has to say”
They encounter robbers on the way and a thief asks the alchemist what stuff he is carrying. He tells them it is the Philosopher’s stone and Elixir of life. They just laugh at him. Santigo asks, “what did you do that for”. He replies, “To show you one of life’s simple lessons. When you possess great treasures within you and try to tell others of them, seldom are you believed”
After a long eventful journey he discovers that his treasure is right where he started, in Spain. He looks up at heaven and asks, why did you have to make me go through this journey. You must have known all the while that it is here”. The wind replies to him, “If I had told you, you wouldn’t have seen the Pyramids. Weren’t they beautiful”
Footnote: I am writing this review at the behest of my friend Shahul Hameed, who is an expert in Sufism and has an interesting blog on this subject. He is also a preacher. He borrowed the book from me because someone told him it is full of references to Sufi philosophy. To me, it felt like Hinduism which says that the culmination of all our spiritual journey, be it worship or pilgrimage or life itself, is to discover the god within. Like someone said “We must not cease from exploring and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we began and to know the place for the first time”