|Great Pyramids of Giza, where Santiago sought his personal legend|
For today’s post I want to talk about one of my favorite feel good stories, the Alchemist, by Paulo Coelho. The Alchemist is about a young Spanish shepherd named Santiago, who leaves the comfort and security of his flock and pastures, to travel to Africa in search of treasure. As any good journey does, Santiago learns many lessons along the way: work ethic, friendship, trust, and love. In the end, Santiago gets all the way to Egypt only to be told that the treasure was all the way back in Spain, in the very town where he started.
Without transporting back too far into time to the couches of my high-school English classroom, I think the meaning is clear here, that Santiago realizes the true treasure was within him all the time, and It wasn’t the gold he would find, but the man he would become on his journey. He left a boy and ended up a man, meeting Fathima, the love of his life along the way. The message that Coelho gives us is that if we want to be happy, we have to be brave enough to pursue it. If Santiago had never realized what he wanted, what made him happy, and chased it, then he would have never lived up to his true potential, realizing his personal legend.
The alchemist makes frequent allusions to what Coelho calls one’s “personal legend”. The personal legend is that purpose which for each individual is our true purpose and highest calling. Each of us has a personal legend, though not all of us will recognize it and fewer still may actually achieve it. For Santiago, the legend was to travel to Africa in search of his treasure, not knowing then of course that the truest treasure was a greater sense of enlightenment. What we should all be asking ourselves as readers is: what is my personal legend? Whatever your legend will be, it can be presumed that the accomplishment or realization of such will be the greatest sense of happiness that you can possibly attain.
According to Coelho, chasing one’s personal legend is the greatest way to nurture not only your own soul but also the soul of the universe, that spirit that unites all living beings and through which we find ourselves intertwined. It may seem selfish at first thought to promote the idea that we should all chase our own dreams. What about cohesion, collaboration, togetherness etc? Well, who says that those things aren’t realized through the attainment of each of our personal legends? Since we are all equal parts of the soul of the universe, and sense our personal legend is our highest calling, then to search for our personal legend is to make the soul of the universe better. For if even a single piece of the soul of the universe is improved, that part that comes from each individual chasing their highest calling, then the entire universe is improved as a whole. Therefore do not shy away from chasing your personal legend. In so far as your legend brings no harm to others, and what true calling would call for the harm of others, then feel free to chase and pursue it with every fiber of your being.
Coelho consistently urges us to chase our legend, but letting us know that the journey will not be easy. “As time passes, a mysterious force tells us we cannot accomplish our personal legend. However, that force is meant to test us and build determination. Our personal legend is our divine purpose, generated from within the universe ourself.” The going may not be easy but to neglect your legend is to neglect the very nature of yourself.
It can be frightening to chase our dreams. Even deciding to pursue happiness can be alarming. In many cases it can evolve deviating from the comfort and security of our present and known scenario. Even though we may recognize this is not our highest calling, it is something we can navigate, and as such perhaps we wonder if it is better to merely stay the course, rather than chase our legend. Coelho address that with the following: “tell your heart that the fear of suffering is worse than the suffering itself. That no heart has ever suffered when it goes in search of its dreams, because every second of the search is a second’s encounter with god and eternity.”
I may not fall into the category of believing in God per se, but I am not averse to the notion of a higher power or greater being. Certainly there are forces at work in our world that exceed human explanation and comprehension. Regardless, I appreciate Coelho’s message here. Do not let the fear of failure stop you from pursuing your own version of happiness. All it takes is courage. Listen to your heart, it knows the way. “Courage is the quality most essential to understanding the language of the world.”
I hope that you all will take the time to look deeply and consider your own personal legend. Where does your highest calling lie? Are you pursuing it or have you called off the pursuit out of fear. Fear not. Live boldly and chase your personal legend. Happiness and fulfillment away.