The Alchemist is a lusciously quotable inspirational parable, an allegorical tale about desert journeys and the meaning of life and passion and God’ will for us, plus our own power to co-create with God, and much more. It’s a framework kind of story that leaves lots of room for private interpretation and spiritual reflection. It’s one of those books you could (and probably will) read again and again, during different life seasons. And in telling the tale, Paulo Coelho delves into magic, religion and the ancient practice of alchemy. It takes the reader on an adventure; the kind that takes you out of your skin and dump you somewhere in the Arabian Desert, or the beautiful city of Andalusia.

The story revolves around a boy, whose desire to travel the world led him to become a shepherd. On one of his “shepherd” journeys outside his hometown in Andalusia, he has a recurring dream which changes the course of his life. In the cause of finding meaning to and pursuing his dream, he came across an opportunist gypsy, a wise and old king who has supernatural powers, a seer, and an alchemist among others. 

Like every dream chaser he faced a huge amount of setbacks. But the knowledge he acquired from the wise king opened his eyes to the different lessons he picked up from the people and things he encountered on his quest. For the record, the old king taught him to recognize everyday things as omens, good or bad, as they would guide him on his path to fulfilling his destiny.

“Never stop dreaming,” the old king had said. “Follow the omens.”
He also told him:

“When you want something, all the universe conspires to help you achieve it.”
Things, however, got interestingly complicated when he started learning about alchemy. Trust me you don’t want to miss it.

Santiago is faced with a plethora of obstacles that force him to look within himself. In one of the novel’s pivotal moments, he is faced with the task of turning himself into the wind. When Santiago begins to believe that it’s impossible, an alchemist tells him that the “fear of failure” is the only thing that can stop him from achieving his goals.

Amidst Santiago’s soul-searching and his surrounding adversity, Coelho’s novel reminds me of the experiences we face in adjusting to the new environment (places/work/neighborhood/business etc.) Everything is so uncertain, and the tasks ahead may seem overwhelming. However, in connecting with the self, you can understand that it’s not about the length or difficulty of the journey, but about the person, we become at the end result.

The Alchemist draws its reader so deep into its believable tone of delivery that one cannot help but get psyched up and all prepared to pursue one’s dreams. But one thing of necessity is to take your right mind along with you on this reading escapade so that you don’t imagine for a moment that you can actually talk to the sun. For the most part, this book is a one-in-a-lifetime kind of book, and I will recommend it for those who need motivation badly, and those who have a penchant for a mindboggling kind of knowledge.

Nothing is merely a mirage. Like Santiago, we can find our own oasis in the harshest of deserts. We, too, can succeed in completing our own personal legends – but only if we will it to be.

Favorite Quote: 
“It is the possibility of having a dream come true that makes life interesting.”

“And when you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it.” (This passage is repeated throughout the book, and the resonance is powerful.)

“People are capable, at any time in their lives, of doing what they dream of.”

“He had to choose between something he had become accustomed to and something he wanted to have… When each day is the same as the next, it’s because people fail to recognize the good things that happen in their lives every day that the sun rises.”

“The secret of happiness is to see all the marvels of the world, and never to forget the drops of oil on the spoon.” 

 “As he mused about these things, he realized that he had to choose between thinking of himself as the poor victim of a thief and as an adventurer in quest of his treasure.” (Yes, choice!! We get to choose our thoughts, how we frame our lives, and the stories we tell ourselves regarding our circumstances. YES.)

“Because the crystal was dirty. And both you and I needed to cleanse our minds of negative thoughts.” (Lose yourself in the work. Go for a run too.)
“Every blessing ignored becomes a curse.” 

 “…there was a language in the world that everyone understood… It was the language of enthusiasm, of things accomplished with love and purpose, and as part of a search for something believed in and desired.” 

 “People need not fear the unknown if they are capable of achieving what they need and want.” 

 “This fear evaporates when we understand that our life stories and the history of the world were written by the same hand.” 

 “Everything on earth is being continuously transformed because the earth is alive… and it has a soul… in the crystal shop…even the glasses were collaborating in your success.” 

 “They spent so much time close to the fire that gradually they gave up the vanities of the world. They discovered that the purification of the metals had led to a purification of themselves.” 

 “If you can concentrate always on the present, you’ll be a happy man…Life will be a party for you, a grand festival because life is the moment we’re living right now.” 

 Regarding oases and places of refuge: “Maybe God created the desert so that man could appreciate the date trees.” (Frame it well! Decide how you see things. Cultivate a stronger perspective. Appreciate needs because they help you focus on abundance.)

“The secret is here in the present. If you pay attention to the present, you can improve upon it. And, if you improve on the present, what comes later will also be better. Forget about the future, and live each day according to the teachings, confident that God loves his children. Each day, in itself, bring with it an eternity.”
“Well, that’s good. Your heart is alive. Keep listening to what it has to say.” 

 “When I have been truly searching for my treasure, I’ve discovered things along the way that I never would have seen had I not had the courage to try things that seemed impossible for a person to achieve.” 

“Before a dream is realized, the Soul of the World tests everything that was learned along the way. It does this not because it is evil, but so that we can, in addition to realizing our dreams, master the lessons we’ve learned as we’ve moved toward that dream. It’s the point at which, as we say in the language of the desert, one dies of thirst just when the palm trees have appeared n the horizon.”