24 September 2009

Paulo Coelho

I've been on a Paulo Coelho kick lately. Come to find out, many of the world's readers have been on a Paulo Coelho kick for some time.

Since reading The Alchemist, I have read Brida, Paulo Coelho: Confessions of a Pilgrim, and last night, I finished By the River Piedra I wept.

Brida is named after the main character, an Irish woman in search of her soul mate and spiritual truth. Her search leads her to pagan rituals and initiations and the discovery of herself as powerful strong woman and witch. Yep, that's right. Witch. Brida is not for close-minded readers, especially those who would have a hard time seeing the intersection between Christian spirituality and Wiccan spirituality. At times, I had a hard time wrapping my head around some of the spiritual concepts that Coelho was writing about but I appreciated what he was exploring nevertheless.

In Brida, I found a woman I could identify with and in her search for mystical experiences, I recognized my own mystical experiences with God. At the same time that I was reading Brida, I was reading the biography of Paulo Coelho by Spanish journalist Juan Arias. The biography was fascinating and insightful and I was able to see more of what Paulo was trying to do in Brida because he spoke at length about his writing process with Brida.

The biography is set up as a Q & A so that the questions and responses come across clear and unadulterated. There were many moments when I would stop and stare at the pages and yell, "Yes!" I think that Paulo's gift lies in being able to articulate spiritual truths so well, especially in the context and metaphor of Journey.

In my last post, I wrote on travel and what travel does for me. For more reflections on travel, I highly recommend Paulo's biography. He speaks at length about how travel has shaped his life's journey and provided him with the experiences and encounters to give him courage and wisdom to keep following God and his dreams.

By the River Piedra I wept was a quick read, about 2 hours. The themes of following your dreams and learning to break free of the rules imposed on you by family and society were present as in the other books. This one was interesting though because Paulo placed the two characters in a charismatic Catholic context (speaking in tongues, gifts of the Spirit etc.) and took them to Lourdes and other sacred sites in France. In the midst of this very Catholic setup, Paulo wove in ideas about the feminine divine which is present in pagan and other major world religions. This one out of all the others that I have read felt the "preachiest." It felt like he had a concept and then had created a story to support the concept--instead of the other way around where a concept flows organically out of a story. I still appreciated the story and his ideas however. As always, I sat around musing and pondering his thoughts, being encouraged by many passages, and wishing that I had someone to discuss it with. At one point in my reading, I turned to J. and said, "I feel like he has described everything that I've learned and gone through in the last 6 years!"

I can see how Paulo gets responses at book signings and conferences such as "You were describing my life in this story" or "I have gone through the exact same thing, how did you know?" In The Alchemist, Paulo describes the soul of the universe, the language of the world that we can all tap into and do when we follow our dreams. I can attest that he has tapped into this language that speaks to our hearts, and I wonder if he will do the same for you.

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