For some books, I tend to have this problem – at the end, after I have read all of it, I lack the confidence to talk about it because I have no concrete idea what to say of it. My thoughts about it is not coherent and I don’t remember well the details, eventhough I had just finished it.
My reading is always way far ahead of my writing about them. I just wanna read – reading is blissful. I think that the other side of this fear is actually that fear of doing something imperfectly. Not many ideas are great ideas and in this blog medium where we try to balance our life and writing in it, maybe we should accept the fact that some weeks we may show up to the blog but it won’t be our best selves.
I will not be writing reflection pieces for everything I read next year, definitely not, but I will only write it for those that profoundly impacts me as a reader. Those books with really great stories and ideas that expands my mind and gives me a new way of thinking. I also want to keep a Marginalia – I heard about it from a Podcast that I listened to recently. To take notes while reading, using sticky tabs, circling new big words and writing definitions of it, using acronyms to mark things – like ‘BL’ for Beautiful Language or ‘GQ’ for Great Quote & other ingenous ways employed by awesome people. And please do tell me of your tricks in making the most of your reading. Next year, I am all for learning and absorbing more goodness from books. The other big goal is to read more non-fiction books too.
Now about the this book …
First of all, what is the meaning of the word Aleph. Well, according to Paulo Coelho, the author; ” .. in the magical Tradition [Aleph] presents itself in one of two ways. The first is as a point in the universe that contains all other points, present and past, large and small. You normally come across it by chance. For this to happen, [we have to be] in the actual place where the Aleph exists.. called the small Aleph.” So, the place where it is mostly experienced is called the small Aleph and what we experience in it – where we are given vivid, magical and frightening visuals of our past and present and everything else large and small – is called the Aleph.
This book is writen by Brazilian author Paulo Coelho who wrote the world famous – ‘The Alchemist’. Another one of his famous book is ’11 Minutes’, and while reading through my diary few days ago, I found out that I had foregone choosing it for another book (because I didn’t know how impactful to readers it was then), and that I regret.
This is the first time that I am reading a Paulo Coelho book and it was given to me by my friend Adi Mariana. I feel that this book, reading it when I did, was very timely. I needed it. I needed to pay attention to my spiritual side, it’s often neglected but life is more wonderful when we continuously interact with our spiritual side.
This book is a personal account of Paulo Coelho’s journey across the whole of Russia through the Transiberian railway in search of some spiritual enlightenment. In the begining of the book we find him being haunted by these feelings of dissatisfaction. So he searched for answers. He needed to find the root cause of that dissatisfaction and try to resolve it.
When a sense of dissatisfaction persists, that means it was placed there by God for one reason only; you need to change everything and move forward.
Those who have read his writings would know that Paulo Coelho is a very spiritual person, he is a spiritual leader – one of Oprah’s favorite people. And this is is a spiritual and reflective book. The whole adventure spun out of a conversation he had with his Master who he calls J. The master offers some great words of advice to Paulo Coelho on the need to make a commitment to something and the need for a spiritual kind of travel and adventure.
Our life is a constant journey, from birth to death. The landscape changes, the people change, our needs change, but the train keeps moving. Life is the train, not the station.
Wherever you are committed to going. Find out what you have left unfinished and complete the task. God will guide you, because everything you ever experienced or will experience is in the here and now.
With those words of advice in mind, during a book event he agrees to proposals from few publishers around the world to visit their country within a very compact set of dates – several continents in a matter of few weeks – much to the dismay of his agent Monica. Through the process of travelling and meeting his readers, he hoped to come across the remedy for his internal sense of dissatisfaction.
I love this beautiful quote by Paulo Coelho on his Agent Monica who believed and fought for him and his writings:
She believed in the impossible and, for that reason, won a battle that everyone, including myself, considered to be lost. That is what marks out the warrior: the knowledge that willpower and courage are not the same thing. Courage attracts fear and adulation, but willpower requires patience and commitment. Men and women with immense willpower are generally solitary types and give off a kind of coolness.
I love reading personal memoirs of writers and reading about them going on a personal voyage of discovery is an added bonus. And, I am always curious with questions like; What is it like as a succesful writer? How is it like on the road during book tours? How does it feel like meeting with your people, your fans, your readers? Thats exactly what happens in this book – it’s not so much an important aspect of the book – but it does explain some of the intimate, behind the scenes, a day in a writers life – on the road – moments.
The writer, the singer, the gardner, the translator, we are all mirrors of our time. We pour our love into our work. In my case, obviously, reading is very important, but anyone who puts all his faith in academic tomes and creative writing courses is missing the point: words are life set down on paper. So seek out the company of others.
Paulo Coelho tells us a story stemmed out of the belief of reincarnation in this book. He is a very fluid person who delves into other cultures and religions and embraces them; seeing a commonality and the universal aspects of each practice. I like that. I like how he embraces everything. This book made see that spiritually, we are all connected, we maybe different in how we worship but there is a common thread. And yes, we are all searching for the same thing in life, which is happiness, a sense of purpose and belonging to this Universe.
The train trip through Russia took weeks and we find the characters physically and emotionally challenged while travelling from city to city on that noisy, metal clanging, tooting and honking -out – loud train. It was difficult even for Paulo Coelho but he had a goal and all throughout he retained that philosophical and spiritual outlook on life. Eventhough he gets off on occassions to meet his readers – which was the main purpose of the trip in the first place – a good portion of the story revolves around life within the confines of the train and the people he travels with.
On that trip, Paulo Coelho travelled with a group of people but the two significant one’s who aided him in his spiritual adventure were his translator, 70 year old Yao (I named him Yuri for a while there) and Hilal, a young violinist who was also undergoing her own inner turmoil and claimed to have been drawn to him.
Hilal was not an official part of the trip, she insisted that she has to go with them and was very single minded about joining the trip and finding love and closure in Paulo. She also turned out to be a significant piece of the puzzle in his heart. This they identified through the Aleph that they experienced on a small Aleph on the train, where they saw their past life and how they were connected.
On that note, this part here got me abit like ‘what?’ for a moment. You see, Paulo Coelho has been married four times and for all those changes he had special spiritual reasonings for all of them. I dont know, that’s a bit corny. It’s amazing however that he found restraint and didn’t end up having a fifth wife regardless of the amount of advances the young and attractive Hilal made at him.
In a former life of their’s, in the 1400’s, Paulo Coelho was Hilal’s lover and he wronged her then. So that bad feeling he has been carrying around is actually the guilt of what he had done to her in that previous life. Reincarnation is talked about in this book and confidently Paulo Coelho presents it in this beautiful story. He teaches us by sharing his personal story and experience of why he believes it’s true. I dont know if I believe in it. I need to do more research on it. But what I got out of the book is this need to really pay attention to life and to take my spiritual side more seriously. Maybe that’s what a lot of people get out of reading Paulo Coelho’s book. This is a spiritual book with a lot of spiritual practices like the Ring Of Fire which sounds very interesting, and the practice of Shamanism.
IF reincarnation is true however, then I believe that I might have been a writer who died on his desk, sitting on a green chair, on the second floor of a building. Behind me was a window where I could see lights from an old city. How do I make such assumptions? Well, I tried digging deep into myself in search of a former past and that’s what I saw – that pictures pops up in my mind. Oh don’t take it seriously, it’s some theory that I came up with when I was very young. I desperately wanted to believe that I existed before and will exist as some other person after this life, so I consoled myself by believing in that.
This book was a great read, very interesting, I loved it. I just couldn’t put it down. Reading about how his writings and his ideas (that he held onto strongly) endeared him to people, inspired me in a way to write about things that I personally believe in – even when it might sound bonkers to some people. Now, I am really looking forward to reading ‘The Alchemist’. Ahhh, that should be more magical.