Manuscript Found in Accra (2013) by Paulo Coelho
Since I first read The Alchemist, I've always loved Paulo Coelho's books. I think this book is the most spiritual of all. No doubt you can sense Catholic influence in all of his writings (he once attended Jesuit school); New Age mystical and philosophical ideas in every sentence; and obvious syncretistic* beliefs permeated in his narrations [*combining or blending all religious belief systems into a new system or doctrine]. With this awareness, as an evangelical Christian, I read this novel as frictional, fantasy and to some extend – inspirational. A solid Biblical (Christian) worldview is needed to filter some of these ‘unbiblical’ ideas and a gift of discernment should be applied when reading this book.
There are two things that I don’t like about this book. Let me tell you up front: 1) Some of the languages is too spiritual and mystical – too deep – that I couldn’t really comprehend what Coelho is really saying. I feel the same way when I read Henri Nouwen’s works. Sometimes I think I’m too worldly-minded and logical. And 2) Syncretistic belief is really confusing. I couldn’t pinpoint what Coelho really believes about God or god, Love, and Humanity. But these two reasons don’t stop me from liking this book. I love his concept of question-and-answer that he borrowed from the Greek method of learning. I appreciate his brieflessness and simplicity. I admire his ability to capture the imagination of his readers, his wisdom and story-telling power. Officially, Paulo Coelho is one of my favorite novelists together with James Rollins and Nicholas Sparks. Oh yeah!
About his book: In the year 1099, the people of Jerusalem awaits the invasion of the crusaders who have surrounded the city’s gates. There, inside the ancient city’s walls, men and women of every age, race and faith gathered together to hear the wise words of a mysterious man known only as the Copt. He has summoned the townspeople and the religious leaders around him and said: “None of us can know what tomorrow will hold, because each day has its good and its bad moments. So, when you ask your questions, forget about the troops outside and the fear inside. Our task is not to leave a record of what happened on this date for those who will inherit the Earth; history will take care of that. We will speak, therefore, about our daily lives, about the difficulties we have had to face…” With that, the people begin asking questions and the Copt answers them kindly and briefly.
There is no chapter division, so, I will divide this book into topics and include quotes that I underline throughout the pages of this book:
#1 Defeat. “Does a young man, rejected by his first love, declare that love does not exist? The young man says to himself: ‘I’ll find someone better able to understand what I feel. And then I will be happy for the rest of my days’… Ever since he fell in love for the first time and was rejected, he has known that this did not put an end to his ability to love. What is true in love is also true in war”; “Only he who gives up is defeated. Everyone else is victorious”; “Learn three important things: Wait patiently for the right moment to act. Do not let the next opportunity slip by you. Take pride in your scars”; “I here to tell you that there are people who have never been defeated. They are the ones who never fought”; “Woe to those who were never beaten! They will never be winners in this life.”
#2 Solitude. “If you are never alone, you cannot know yourself”; “In solitude, they will learn that saying ‘No’ does not always show a lack of generosity and that saying ‘Yes’ is not always a virtue”; “At life’s most significant moments we are always alone”; “Just as Love is the divine condition, so solitude is the human condition.”
#3 Usefulness. “Don’t try to be useful. Try to be yourself: that is enough, and that makes all the difference”; “A life is never useless. Each soul that came down to Earth is here for a reason”; “The people who really help others are not trying to be useful, but are simply leading a useful life. They rarely give advice, but serve as an example”; “Do one thing: live the life you always wanted to live.”
#4 Change. “It’s nice to dream… [But] dreaming carries no risks. The dangerous thing is trying to transform your dreams into reality”; “The angles say: ‘Now!’… Nature is telling us: ‘Change!’; “The Unwanted Visitor visits those who don’t change and those who do. But those who did change can say: ‘My life was an interesting one. I didn’t squander my blessing.’ And those who believe that adventures are dangerous I say, Try routine: that kills you far more quickly.”
#5 Beauty. “People always say: ‘It’s inner beauty that matters, not outer beauty.’ Well, that’s not true. If it were, why would flowers put so much energy into attracting bees?... Because nature longs for beauty, and is only satisfied when beauty can be exalted. Outer beauty is inner beauty made visible, and it manifests itself in the light that flows from our eyes”; “Beauty is present in all creation, but the dangerous fact is that… we allow ourselves to be influenced by what other people think”; “The world is what we imagine it to be”; “Beauty exists not in sameness but in difference.”
#6 Direction or Guidance. “Like the sun, life spreads its light in all directions… But, if we want to make a fire, we have to focus all the sun’s rays on one spot”; “He focuses not just on the goal to be reached, but on everything happening around him. He often has to stop because his strength fails him… Rest a little, but as soon as you can, get up and carry on. Because ever since your goal found out that you were travelling towards it, it has been running to meet you; “Only the person who accepts God’s plan with humility and courage knows that he is on the right road.”
#7 Love. “True Love, however, is the love that seduces and will never allow itself to be seduced”; “Love is an act of faith, not an exchange”; “It is better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all”; “Love is only a word, until we decide to let it possess us with all its force. Love is only a word, until someone arrives to give it meaning”; “Don’t give up. Remember, it’s always the last key on the key ring that opens the door.”
#8 Choice. “I am going to think of this day as the first day of my life”; “I will look at everything and everyone as if for the first time, especially the small things that I have grown used to, quite forgetting the magic surrounding them”; “For the first time, I will smile without feeling guilty, because joy is not a sin.”
#9 Sex. “Sex goes far beyond pleasure”; “For most people, generosity consists only in giving, and yet receiving is also an act of love. Allowing someone else to make us happy will make them happy too”; “See sex as a gift, a ritual of transformation”; “[In sex] time will cease to exist, because in the land of pleasure-born-of-true-love, everything is infinite.”
#10 Respect. “Respect those who grew up and learned alongside you. Respect those who taught you”; “You will only be loved and respected if you love and respect yourself. Never try to please everyone; if you do, you will be respected by no one.”
#11 Elegance. “Elegance lies not in the clothes we wear, but in the way we wear them”; “What is simplicity? It is the coming together of true values of life”; “Elegance transforms complex thoughts into something that everyone can understand.”
#12 Work. “A poet: I fell asleep and dreamed that life was only Happiness; I woke and discovered that life was Duty; I did my Duty and discovered that life was Happiness”; “There are two types of work… The first is the work we do because we have to… The second type of work we call the Offering… The person making the Offering is always rewarded. The more he shares out his affection, the more his affection grows”; “The Offering is a wordless prayer. And like all prayers, it requires discipline – not the discipline of slavery, but of free choice.”
#13 Success. “People who seek only success rarely find it, because success is not an end in itself, but a consequence”; “Real success means: enriching your life”; “What is success? It is being able to go to bed each night with your soul at peace.”
#14 Miracle. “Each time we see the humble exalted and the arrogant humbled, we are witnessing a miracle”; “Miracles do not go against the laws of nature; we only think that because we do not know nature’s laws”; “Give us this day, Lord, our daily miracle.”
#15 Anxiety. “Anxiety was born in the very same moment as mankind. And since we will never be able to master it, we will have to learn to live with it – just as we have learned to live with storms”; “Although anxiety is part of life, never let it control you.”
#16 Future. ‘Our soul is governed by four invincible forces: love, death, power and time”; “When you are going through difficult times, remember: you may have lost some major battles, but you survived and you’re still here”; “What the future holds for you depends entirely on your capacity for love”; “The greatest gift God gave us is the power to make decisions.”
#17 Royalty. “What was broken will never be the same again”; “Royalty can never be imposed by force, fear, insecurity or intimidation”; “Where there is loyalty, weapons are of no use”; “True here is not the man who was born for great deeds, but the one who has managed to build a shield of loyalty around him out of many small things”; “The most terrible of all weapons is the word, which can ruin a life without leaving a trace of blood, and whose wounds never heal.”
#18 Enemies. “We will always meet rivals in everything we do, but the most dangerous are those we believe to be our friends”; “Beware of anyone who tries to please you all the time”; “Only fight with a worthy opponent…”; “Your enemies are not the adversaries who were put there to test your courage. They are the cowards who were put there to test your weakness.”
There are more topics that Coelho (or ‘the Copt’, the main character) covered in this book. But these 18 topics are the most obvious ones. Do you like these quotes? If you do, don’t settle with my summary-review – buy the book!
THINK BIG. START SMALL. GO DEEP.