The Alchemist by Paul Coelho is a story about a boy trying to fulfill his Personal Legend, or destiny, by searching for treasure hidden at the Pyramids of Egypt. There are many beautiful quotes about courage in this book and I’ve written 5 of them here to share with you!
Merriam-Webster says courage is “mental or moral strength, to venture, persevere, and withstand danger, fear, or difficulty”. I interpret that as doing something you feel is right, even if resisted by internal or external forces.
This is certainly true of the boy in The Alchemist.
He Sees the Bigger Picture
“He still had some doubts about the decision he had made. But he was able to understand one thing: making a decision was only the beginning of things. When someone makes a decision, he is really diving into a strong current that will carry him to places he had never dreamed of when he first made the decision.”
He Persists In Spite of His Fears
“‘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 answered. ‘Naturally it’s afraid that, in pursuing your dream, you might lose everything you’ve won.’ ‘Well, then, why should I listen to my heart?’ ‘Because you will never again be able to keep it quiet. Even if you pretend not to have heard what it tells you, it will always be there inside you, repeating to you what you’re thinking about life and about the world.”
Listens to His Heart
“‘Why don’t people’s hearts tell them to continue to follow their dreams?’ the boy asked the alchemist. ‘Because that’s what makes a heart suffer most, and hearts don’t like to suffer.’ From then on, the boy understood his heart. He asked it, please, never to stop speaking to him. He asked that when he wandered far from his dreams, his heart press him and sound the alarm. The boy swore that, every time he heard the alarm, he would heed its message.”
And Overcomes Big Obstacles
“What you still need to know is this: 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. That’s the point at which most people give up…’Every search begins with beginner’s luck. And every search ends with the victor’s being severely tested.'”
A Practical Application of The Alchemist to My Life
I thought that meeting people where they are was a subtle example of the boy’s moral strength. I’ve been ruminating on it a lot lately because I get frustrated when the kids I babysit are picky eaters. They like plain pasta, hot dogs, chicken nuggets, and meatballs. The most exotic thing they’ll eat is salmon that’s been baked to well-done.
When I took the job, I thought I was going to cook fancier dishes than that. I was hired in-part to cook more interesting and healthful meals, and I really looked forward to it. But when I tried to make new dishes–and I’m talking about something like pesto–the kids threw tantrums and wouldn’t eat. It was frustrating.
Since then, I’ve realized that the kids’ eating habits are a) not in my control (the parents need to commit to the change, too, if they want to see real results) and b) where the kids are now. So, I’ve toned it down and cooked dishes that they’re more familiar with.
Sometimes, it’s better to meet people where they are, which is something the boy in The Alchemist also has to realize when working for a crystal merchant. The boy wants the merchant to keep expanding his crystal shop until the merchant can afford to go to Mecca and live his dream. But, the merchant says:
“‘You dream about your sheep and the Pyramids, but you’re different from me, because you want to realize your dreams. I just want to dream about Mecca. I’ve already imagined a thousand times crossing the desert, arriving at the Plaza of the Sacred Stone, the seven times I walk around it before allowing myself to touch it. I’ve already imagined the people who would be at my side, and those in front of me, and the conversations and prayers we would share. But I’m afraid that it would all be a disappointment, so I prefer just to dream about it.’ That day the Merchant gave the boy permission to build the display. Not everyone can see his dreams come true in the same way.”
Sometimes, there is great courage in letting go and letting someone be who they are at that moment, instead of trying to change them.