I recently decided to reread The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho. If you haven’t read this short book, do yourself a favor and pick up a copy. It is truly a great read that you won’t regret.
In the book, the shepherd boy Santiago is on a quest to find his treasure and obtain his Personal Legend. As straight forward as that seems, it is not so easy. Much like John Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress, the path may be straight ahead, but there are many obstacles along the way. In Santiago’s case, it is settling for something other than his Legend. In overcoming these obstacles, he gets content to stay where he is for a year or two. This leads him to view alternate potential futures that are tempting. It takes him a while, but he realizes true happiness won’t come staying in one place. His happiness will come in continuing on his journey.
It is a simple thing to identify with Santiago’s life. Obstacles often come in fresh opportunities, new jobs, or too-good-to-pass-up deals. They have a tendency to derail us from our own Personal Legends. And like Santiago, after a few years we wonder what happened and what could have been if we had stayed the course. Hopefully, it is not too late to pick back up and go after the treasures we dreamed of.
As I continue to read through Robert Greene’s book Mastery, I have also learned that some of the deviations have a way of better preparing us in pursuit of our quest. As I look back on my own pursuit, I realize that some of those deviations have helped mold me into who I am today. They have made me stronger and better prepared for tomorrow. Perhaps my timeline isn’t what I hoped it would be, but how many people’s timelines match up with their projections? I have to keep the faith and continue the next leg of the journey.
“It’s what you have always wanted to accomplish. Everyone, when they are young, knows what their Personal Legend is.
“At that point in their lives, everything is clear and everything is possible. They are not afraid to dream, and to yearn for everything they would like to see happen in their lives. But, as time passes, a mysterious force begins to convince them that it will be impossible for them to realize their Personal Legend.” -said the Old Man to Santiago
To stay stuck in the deviation, is to continue being who we were. We have to get past this and not allow ourselves to hold us back. We have to take all our experiences, all our learning, and become the masters of our own Personal Legends.
One of my all-time favorite books that I love to refer to is Pilgrim’s Progress by John Bunyan. For some reason, the imagery of that story will never leave my mind. It is a book about walking the path. To make it to the end, Christian cannot deviate to the right or to the left. He has to keep going. Whether you are a believer in Christ or not, this book has a universal appeal that is still relevant 345 years after it was written.
The image I am calling to mind today is that of Christian at the beginning of his journey. He is carrying a large weight on his back, and there is no respite from this burden. It isn’t until Christian comes to the cross that he can unload the weight of sin from off of his back.
The most important contribution to peace of mind is never to do wrong. –Seneca, Letter #105: On Facing the World with Confidence
Far from perfection, I have felt the burden of my wrong-doings. Like a stone laid upon my conscience, the weight has been so great that even my posture has been affected. The only way to gain relief is to make amends. To put the skeletons in the closet is to increase the pressure on the mind. By confessing our sins and seeking forgiveness, we can release ourselves from the yoke of our transgressions.
Wouldn’t it be better to never have to carry this weight at all? How much taller could we stand if we were never held down by our own mistakes? It might be an impossibility to never do wrong, but it is something we can certainly strive towards.
Let’s start with the minor mistakes, the accidents. Things happen. Life happens and accidents are a part of life. Give them the attention they deserve and then move on. Don’t let it bog you down.
But the conscious decisions to do wrong, they are the ones we need to look out for. The conscience is like a muscle. You can put a strain on it, and it will feel the burden. Continue to add a greater and greater weight, and soon you will become immune to the weight (the ominous hardening of your heart).
Guard your mind. Mind your actions. Refrain from wrong-doing and you can become righteous. Not only is this an honorable pursuit, but you will have the freedom and peace that can only be achieved by a mind free from the weight of guilt
From his prison cell, the Puritan preacher John Bunyan wrote Pilgrims’s Progress, one of the greatest selling books of all time. It is a book I have not read in over 30 years, but it may be one of the most memorable books in my mind. It may be time, I reread it.
In the book, the main character, Christian, sets outs on a journey from his home in the City of Destruction to the Celestial City. How does he get there? By staying on the path. If Christian does not stay the course, but veers to the left or the right, he will be ensnared by the temptations of this world.
In the past few years, I have spent a good deal of time considering my own path. Where is it that I want to go? Once I figured it out, I had to answer the next question. How can I get there if I do not stay on the path?
The path is straight and narrow. You have to maintain constant vigilance to stay on it. On either side are the temptations, the distractions, the snares and the pitfalls. Procrastination, laziness, and all the other vices are waiting for you. They are calling out to you to stop only for a moment. And then another. And then one more time until you no longer remember what it is you are supposed to be doing. How do we continue the journey when we suddenly find ourselves longing to stop?
Discipline. Self-Control. Temperance. We continue our slow and steady pace. We know that the sugar-high of immediate gratification will eventually turn to the bitterness of regret. We continue the march, because the “what might have been” alternative is so dreadful that we dare not taste its fruit.
We all have our paths to take. Once discovered, you have to walk it. It is the only way to partake of the reward at the end of the journey. There are no shortcuts, and straying from it only leads to evil.
Do not turn to the right or left; remove your foot from evil. –Proverbs 4:27