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Santiago goes on a pilgrimage and we should also
True love is not a hurdle to realize your dream, and the purpose of our life on earth is to realize this dream moving ahead like a pilgrim who knows the true meaning of love.
By Joe Palathunkal
A Spanish Catholic boy of 16 years, begins his journey to realize his dream from an abandoned church with his flock of sheep, because ‘he had wanted to know the world’ and travel. A pilgrimage is also a process of learning and travelling though it is for a spiritual purpose and Santiago’s journey was also for a spiritual and psychological purpose to realize his own legend which God has enjoined on every human person.
But the author of The Alchemist, Paulo Coelho says that to live one’s own legend one must be ready to abide by that mysterious aspect of our life: “The secret of life, though, is to fall seven times and to get up eight times.” If you have that willingness, then you can realize your dream and can turn everything into gold like an alchemist.
As Santiago moves on to realize his dream with his flock of sheep, he comes across too many hurdles but what an old woman told him in front of the image of the Sacred Heart of Jesus impressed him very much that he would realize finding the treasure in his dream in an Egyptian pyramid.
Meanwhile Santiago feels tremendous love for the beautiful daughter of a merchant yet he decides to move on to find his treasure. If you are enslaved by your attractions, you cannot move on like a pilgrim, and Santiago decides to go forward leaving behind the girl with Moorish eyes who was surprised that a shepherd boy was carrying a book with him and was reading.
The girl told him about her image about a shepherd: “I didn’t know shepherds knew how to read.” “Well, if you know how to read, why are you just a shepherd?”
This is a major hurdle that each human being faces in his life’s journey which Santiago also faced. The girl drew a portrait of a shepherd with the brush she got from her social background and as per that image a shepherd must be an illiterate nincompoop. If you know how to read, then you must not be a shepherd, the merchant’s daughter was sure.
Negative images about the other are the biggest hurdles on his or her way to move ahead in life. In India such images are created through gossip, slander and public discourse, and people belonging to different religions and regions are painted negative by others which affect an Indian’s life drastically. Such victimized people can get inspired by Santiago to move ahead as iconoclasts as he did with the merchant’s daughter.
“If someone isn’t what others want them to be, the others become angry. Everyone seems to have a clear idea of how other people should lead their lives, but none about his or her own.” This was the thinking that was going on in the shepherd boy’s heart and mind which very often occurs to us also. Another hurdle on his pilgrim path was a lie about which the King of Salem Melchizedek told him emphatically.
“It’s this: that at a certain point in our lives, we lose control of what’s happening to us, and our lives become controlled by fate. That’s the world’s greatest lie.” But Santiago pointed out to the old man that he never ascribed to such a view: “That’s never happened to me. They wanted me to be a priest, but I decided to become a shepherd.”
Santiago’s reply made Melchizedek very happy because he realized that this boy was not a fatalist but someone with a rational mind to follow his own dream. Millions of Indians believe their life is decided by fate and therefore they become like dead bodies that float in a river allowing the current to decide their destiny. About such people only Nissim Ezekiel wrote the critical poem, Night of the Scorpion:
“May the sins of your previous birth
be burned away tonight, they said.”
For Santiago his own decision of this birth was going to decide his destiny, the past could not pull him back, he was not there to look back and turn into a lifeless salt-pillar like the wife of Lot. So after all the troubles and travels he goes back to the old church from where he started his journey after thanking God “for his having met a woman of the desert who had told him that love would never keep a man from his destiny”.
True love is not a hurdle to realize your dream, and the purpose of our life on earth is to realize this dream moving ahead like a pilgrim who knows the true meaning of love. And Santiago was truly in love with Fatima going beyond the boundaries and barriers of region and religion.
Like in the starting, when he reached the church this time also ‘night was falling’ and he started digging under a sycamore tree in the sacristy of the abandoned church. “He thought of the many roads he had traveled, and of the strange way God had chosen to show him his treasure.”
“An hour later, he had before him a chest of Spanish gold coins. There were also precious stones, gold masks adorned with red and white feathers, and stone statues embedded with jewels.”
Santiago’s pilgrimage ended in gold; he had realized his dream because he had accepted that life is a journey, a pilgrimage to materialize the dream gifted exclusively to everyone by God. But in the glee and exultation of finding the treasure, Santiago did not forget to say: “I’m coming, Fatima.”
Like Santiago each one of us is a dream of God, and it can be realized if only like him we are ready to go on a pilgrimage singing with Robert Frost the lines with the spirit behind:
“Two roads diverged in a wood, and I
I took the one less travelled by,
And that has made all the difference.”
Just think of whether you are ready to journey with Santiago to make that difference if you are inspired by the young Catholic boy from The Alchemist, one of the top ten most read books of the world.
(Joe Palathunkal is Associate Editor, Living in Faith)
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