Before the month of October ends, I finished reading my first Paulo Coelho – The Alchemist. I remember I was in high school when his novels started gaining attention, but I didn’t find myself included in the hype. I tried leafing through the first pages of one of his books, which I have forgotten the title, and found it uninteresting. So I put it down and changed to another.
However, last week I was looking for a new book to read. This sounds funny at first since I have a long list in my TBR pile. Too many books to read, but I wanted to try something different. I think you can relate to this, especially when you have read two to four YA, historical, or dystopian novels consecutively you’ll find yourself searching for another thing to interest your palate. Not that the books you have read are boring; it’s just that you need a breather from the genre you are currently addicted. Am I making sense?
In this situation, I happened to be looking at an eBook site (yes, I don’t only read the printed words) when I saw Paulo Coelho’s name. Now, I don’t want to put much melodrama in this so I’ll just say that high school memories flooded me and I found myself choosing his novel that first came to mind – The Alchemist.
I’m not sure if you can follow with my ever so distracted mind, but those who are kind might ask, “What’s the relation of the novel with today’s post?” while others who aren’t might blurt, “Just get to the point!” Well, okay. I’ll answer both of you.
Today’s topic is about motto or philosophy. I can give you a lot about this, but I want to share one that has captured my heart and attention while reading Coelho’s book. It’s not the actual message of the novel per se, but the wisdom shared in a section of the book.
The two drops of oil
by PAULO COELHO on FEBRUARY 4, 2010
A merchant sent his son to learn the Secret of Happiness from the wisest of men. The young man wandered through the desert for forty days until he reached a beautiful castle at the top of a mountain. There lived the sage that the young man was looking for.
However, instead of finding a holy man, our hero entered a room and saw a great deal of activity; merchants coming and going, people chatting in the corners, a small orchestra playing sweet melodies, and there was a table laden with the most delectable dishes of that part of the world.
The wise man talked to everybody, and the young man had to wait for two hours until it was time for his audience.
With considerable patience, the Sage listened attentively to the reason for the boy’s visit, but told him that at that moment he did not have the time to explain to him the Secret of Happiness.
He suggested that the young man take a stroll around his palace and come back in two hours’ time.
“However, I want to ask you a favor,” he added, handling the boy a teaspoon, in which he poured two drops of oil. “While you walk, carry this spoon and don’t let the oil spill.”
The young man began to climb up and down the palace staircases, always keeping his eyes fixed on the spoon. At the end of two hours he returned to the presence of the wise man.
“So,” asked the sage, “did you see the Persian tapestries hanging in my dining room? Did you see the garden that the Master of Gardeners took ten years to create? Did you notice the beautiful parchments in my library?”
Embarrassed, the young man confessed that he had seen nothing. His only concern was not to spill the drops of oil that the wise man had entrusted to him.
“So, go back and see the wonders of my world,” said the wise man. “You can’t trust a man if you don’t know his house.”
Now more at ease, the young man took the spoon and strolled again through the palace, this time paying attention to all the works of art that hung from the ceiling and walls. He saw the gardens, the mountains all around the palace, the delicacy of the flowers, the taste with which each work of art was placed in its niche. Returning to the sage, he reported in detail all that he had seen.
“But where are the two drops of oil that I entrusted to you?” asked the sage.
Looking down at the spoon, the young man realized that he had spilled the oil.
“Well, that is the only advice I have to give you,” said the sage of sages. “The Secret of Happiness lies in looking at all the wonders of the world and never forgetting the two drops of oil in the spoon.”
The analogy there couldn’t be clearer. We must be happy that we are living and enjoy existing in this wonderful world while having a goal in mind to achieve. We must not forget that we can enjoy everything life has to offer provided that we won’t stray and forget our dreams and goals – they are very much as important as happiness. For how can one enjoy living without its purpose?
Now, now, perhaps some are raising their eyebrows. How about those unhappy people who don’t have any choice but not to spill the oil? Many of us are aware that some less fortunate of us, who are always having problems on how to get money for food, rents, education, and medicine, are so focused in their economic dilemma that sometimes they forget the feeling of being happy. On one hand, those who were born in silver spoon and are well-off are mostly happy. Keyword: mostly.
Living in the country like the Philippines, I can testify that wealth is not the only factor for happiness. Contentment, satisfaction, and peace of mind are, too. One can see a man who owns half of the major establishments in the country always drunk and has suicidal tendencies, while a family of 12 living near a dumpsite is happily sharing leftover food from the garbage truck.
Indeed, happiness is such a simple concept found to be complicated by some. But for me, after all I have read and listened to so far, can only be felt when one feels contented in a situation. Achieving one’s goal and succeeding with the presence and support of his family and faith in God while enjoying his existence in the process is what I call life. Life with happiness.