As a teacher at Dr. Kearney, I convinced my colleagues to teach the book The Alchemist, by Brazilian author Paulo Coelho, to Grade 9 classes. The novel urges people to follow their dreams because to find one’s “Personal Myth” is one’s true mission on Earth, and is the way to come into close relationship with God. Being in close relationship with God is to be happy and to fulfill the ultimate purpose of one’s own creation.
The novel tells the tale of Santiago, an Andalusian shepherd boy, who has a dream of finding hidden treasure at the foot of the Egyptian pyramids. He eventually finds sufficient courage to follow his dream. The boy tracks various signs to venture forth in his personal journey of self-discovery, symbolically searching for a hidden treasure.
Along his voyage, Santiago sees the greatness of the world, meets his future bride, and encounters kings and alchemists. By the end of the novel, he discovers that his treasure is where his heart belongs. “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Luke 12:34). Santiago’s treasure is the journey itself, the discoveries he makes, the connections he makes and the love and wisdom he acquires along the way. The author believes that simple things are the most valuable and only wise people come to appreciate that truth.
Santiago meets the alchemist when the titular character appears to the shepherd boy in the form of an old king by the name of Melchizedek, King of Salem, modelled on the Biblical name from Abrahamic religions that combines the position of king and priest. Melchizedek tells Santiago that when an individual truly wants something to happen, the whole universe conspires to fulfill that person’s wish. This central motif is echoed throughout the book. Coelho also suggests that those who do not have the courage to follow their “Personal Myth” are doomed to a life of emptiness and misery.
Some people are so afraid that great disappointment awaits them that they prefer just to dream. This is where Coelho really captures the drama of man, who sacrifices fulfillment for conformity, who knows he can achieve greatness but denies himself the opportunity to do so. Most people, as a result, live disappointed lives.
Coelho presents the person who refuses to follow his dream as the person who denies God. The author holds that every happy person carries God within him. Yet, few people choose to follow the road that has been set before them by God. When people do follow the path prepared for them by God, invariably they find God while searching for their destiny. God is to be found when one successfully finds one’s purpose and completes the God-mandated mission for his or her life on earth.
When we connect with the wisdom in the universe that is God, our dreams are manifested in our lives in God’s way and in God’s time. Each of us has dreams written in our hearts by God, and we long for somebody to tell us that our dreams will come true. For this reason alone, the book would make a great Christmas stocking stuffer for any teen struggling to believe in God’s promises for his or her life.
The Alchemist comes in both traditional prose and, for less interested readers, graphic novel style.
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