Monday, February 27, 2012

Thoughts on The Alchemist

The Alchemist, by Paulo Cuelho, was the first physical book with pages that I bought in years.  Lately, I've been downloading ebooks, but my debit card from the States expired last January, so I can no longer make purchases on it, and I've yet to figure out how to make online purchases with my Korean bank card, much less link it to Itunes.  I've also tried to download the pdf, which is free, but for some reason, I haven't been able to do it.  My coworker, Kelsey, was raving about it, so I became intrigued.  I grew impatient, as I always do when I really want something, so I went to the English section of one of the bookstores here in Gwangju, and purchased a copy.  I guess, for some reason, I was meant to possess it.

The Alchemist was a wonderful read.  It chronicled a shepherd boy in his refusal to settle for mediocrity in life, as he pursued his dreams.  In his pursuit, he learned numerous lessons, and encountered a lot of interesting people, and situations.  The main concept that the book portrays is, "When you want something, the entire universe conspires in helping you to achieve it."  It's a beautifully encouraging message that reveals that, contrary to popular belief, attaining your deepest desires is a possible endeavor.  The book explains they appear in it's purest form during childhood, and as a person grows older, they become suppressed and discouraged for many reasons.

I don't know whether or not Paulo Cuelho is a believer in Christ.  It can even be argued that The Alchemist has some pagan undertones.  Regardless, this book teaches a beautiful lesson, which states that the pursuit of our dreams is a God given right.  God also gives each of us the choice of whether or not to make them a reality.  

God puts all of us on this earth for a single purpose, and that is to please him.  He gives each of us a unique way to do so.  Much like the noble man who gave a different amount of talents to each of his servants in the Parable of the Talents in Luke 19:12-28, God gives each of us different portions of "talent," and it's up to us, as his servants, to make the most of what he gave us to make a profit for his glory.  And the best way to do that is to pursue our dreams, and deepest desires, as they are clues given to us by God as to what he put us on this earth to do.  And as we begin to understand those clues, and make the decision to actively pursue our dreams, how could the universe not conspire to make it become a reality when the one who created the universe sees a piece of his creation actively pursuing that which he/she was created to do?

Paulo Cuelho states in the introduction that a dreamer will encounter four major obstacles in achieving his/her dream.  The first one being that a person is told from "childhood onward that everything is impossible."  The second obstacle is love, in the form of a fear of abandoning everything and everyone in order pursue it.  The third obstacle is the fear of defeats that will be met along the path.  The fourth obstacle is the fear of actually realizing that dream.

The first three are all obstacles that most dream pursuers would expect to encounter along their respective paths.  The fourth obstacle isn't.  It's rather perplexing to think that a person would feel unworthy after experiencing all the pain and sacrifice associated with such a decision, and to feel unworthy when the dream is within grasp.  Cuelho suggests that the mere possibility of receiving what we want fills us dreamers with guilt, as we "look around at all those around us who have failed to get what they want, and we feel that we do not deserve to get what we want either."

The first three obstacles can only be defeated by the combination of sheer determination, and a dissatisfaction with living a life filled with discontent, unhappiness, and untapped potential.  The fourth obstacle seems to be the most difficult, and also the most unexpected, but can be overcome through a trusting in the forgiving power that comes through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.  We all have that which is worthy of causing us to experience extreme guilt.  Christ frees us from that, and enables us to feel worthy of grasping God's most wonderful gift for each of our lives, the possible reality of our dreams.  Moreover, Jesus is the one who enables us to not only feel worthy, but to "go boldly to the throne of grace" and expect the best of what God provides.  Through him, we are able to feel free of our guilt and fear, and feel entitled to blessing, provision, and moreover the deepest desires of our hearts.

The shepherd boy honestly acknowledged his deepest desires, and mostly nurtured them, rather than suppress them.  Through his honesty with himself, he was able to recognize omens given to him by God in order to direct him, which made remaining determined and motivated easier.  Through Christ, we are free of all the guilt that clouds our ability to see the true desires that we have for our lives, and are free to be honest with ourselves about them, and to thus feel worthy of pursuing the notion of making them a reality.

Christ does more than encourage us to pursue our dreams.  He mandates it.  As portrayed in the Parable of the Talents, the servant who was afraid to invest his only talent had what little he was given taken away from him by his master.  He was left with nothing, and his only talent was given to the servant who had the highest return.  The fourth obstacle to achieving our dreams is rooted by that same fear that Christ warned us about, and was put on this earth to enable us to overcome.  

Paulo Cuelho states, "If you believe yourself worthy of the thing you worked so hard to get, then you become an instrument of God, and you understand why you are here."  To become one of those instruments is the greatest desire that I have for my life, and that is a wish that I have for you as well.                  

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