The Al-Chemist (Book Report)

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The Al-Chemist Author : “Paulo Coelho” The Al-Chemist is a lovely novel, tender but profound. It is about the importance of seeking one’s own meaning of life and spending one’s life fulfilling it. Coelho calls it seeking one’s “Personal Legend.” It reminds me very much of what the Existentialists would have called “authenticity.” However, unlike the Existentialists who write rather darkly about this process of seeking one’s own meaning system, Coelho’s young shepherd boy is seeking his Personal Legend in something much like a fairly tale. However, Coelho at least gives us a process and set of obstacles we might well expect, and his hero fulfills all four: First one must discover that our lives are dictated by custom, family, law and tradition and we must be willing to overcome these in order to seek our own unique Personal Legend. If we get to this first stage we may well run up against love as an obstacle, particularly in believing that in order to have the love of some other we must give up our own Personal Legend and live in a way that the other needs for us. On the author’s view this is a mistaken notion of love. “You must understand that love never keeps a man from pursuing his Personal Legend. If he abandons that pursuit it’s because it wasn’t true love, the love that speaks the Language of the World.” Supposing one gets past that second stage and realizes love is not incompatible with one’s Personal Legend, then one is likely to run into grave difficulties in realizing this legend and be tempted to give up. It is just too hard. But that would be the great tragedy of one’s life, one would have given up what makes life worthwhile in order to avoid the hardships perhaps required to get there. “My heart is a traitor,” the boy said to the alchemist, when they had paused to rest the horses. “It doesn’t want me to go on.” “That makes sense,” the alchemist
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