Thursday, 5 March 2015

The power of suggestion

I finished Paulo Coehlho's book The Alchemist about a week ago and wanted to write a review about it. The review will be coming in a moment, but I want to address a different issue first: The power of suggestion and negativity. 
I read the book on the glowing recommendation of Helene. Ignorant me vaguely recalled having heard the title before, but I knew nothing about the book at all. I certainly didn't know that it was a world-wide phenomenon with millions of copies sold, and that it was some sort of self-help book.

The version I bought includes a short introduction by the author, where he touches on the popularity of the book by mentioning that president Bill Clinton read it, and that Julia Roberts declared that she loves it. Also, let's not forget that Oprah gave it her stamp of approval, which automatically guarantees any book a place at the top of the New York Times Bestseller list.
Before I even read the first sentence, I was inclined to like the book, too - after all, who am I to disagree with millions of people?
Here is the review I had started to write a few days ago:

"Like all dreamers, I need success stories to fuel the fire of my passion. People who made it big after hitting rock-bottom are always a great motivation, as are self-proclaimed amateurs who figured it out as they went along, and became successful in their chosen field without knowing much about it to begin with. 

I specifically admire authors, and in particular those who make it look easy.

Paulo Coelho's book "The Alchemist" is one of those books that do just that. You probably read his book and know exactly what I'm talking about; after all, it has sold more than 65 million copies and has been translated into 56 different languages."

I had to google the numbers, and in doing so, I came across some reviews on goodreads. Bad ones. And like a passersby gawking at an accident, I couldn't look away, and read bad review after bad review. Some were simply vicious and dumb, saying stuff along the lines that "I hate this book because it's stupid", which nobody should take seriously. Haters gonna hate, and if you don't have a constructive argument, then it means you haven't thought it through. No need to get worked up about that.
But there were also arguments that warranted listening to, and that made me pause in my own appraisal, resulting in abandoning it altogether.

Suddenly I wasn't sure any more: What was my opinion? The raving review I had planned on writing - was that really my belief, or had I been influenced by the public opinion about the book?
I slept on it, thought about it some more, and came up with something that is as close to my unbiased point of view as I can get.

The story in itself reads like a fairy-tale: The Andalusian shepherd Santiago has a recurring dream about a treasure hidden by the pyramids of Egypt, and after seeking advice from a gypsy and an old man (who says he is the king of Salem) goes off in search of his treasure. On the way he gets robbed, then becomes rich by working in a crystal shop for a year, joins a caravan to cross the Sahara desert, falls in love, turns into the wind, and eventually reaches the pyramids. There he gets robbed again and beaten, and one of his assailants tries to demonstrate the foolishness of Santiago's dream by telling him his own: About a treasure buried under a sycamore tree in Spain. Santiago realizes that his treasure is at home, at the spot where he set out on his adventure, and returns there to find a chest of jewels and gold. He has learnt lots of lessons on his journey, and in the end is a wise and rich man who returns to the woman he loves.

Here is the thing: I'm easily excitable. Tell me that I can achieve anything I want if I want it enough, and you will be my friend. I want to believe that, and anything that encourages this sort if thinking is good news for me.

The Alchemist is chock-full of great motivational sayings. Here are my 11 favourite ones:

  • It's the possibility of having a dream come true that makes life interesting.
  • It's the simple things in life that are the most extraordinary.
  • What's the world's greatest lie? It's this: that at a certain point in our lives, we lose control of what what's happening to us, and our lives become controlled by fate.
  • He never realized that people are capable, at any time in their lives, of doing what they dream of.
  • People learn, early in their lives, what is their reason for being. Maybe that's why they give up on it so early, too.
  • He had to choose between something he had become accustomed to and something he wanted to have.
  • There was nothing to hold him back except himself.
  • Every blessing ignored becomes a curse.
  • You will never be able to escape from you heart. So it's better to listen to what it has to say.
  • Most people see the world as a threatening place, and, because they do, the world turns out, indeed, to be a threatening place.

I loved the message of the book: To follow your dreams and find your own 'personal legend'.
However, there are a few aspects of the book I didn't like:
The ending. Why does the treasure have to be an actual treasure, meaning gold and jewels? It thought the treasure would be more spiritual or metaphorical. If the purpose of his journey was to become rich, he could have ended his quest several times: In Tangier as the crystal merchant's assistant; or in the desert at the oasis, where he found love and wealth.
Also, that his 'treasure' is at home, in the exact same spot where he set out on his adventure was frustrating to me.
I guess the message is that whatever we are seeking is close to home; but I don't agree with that, which is of course purely personal. In my life I have found my own 'treasure' far away from where I grew up, which really doesn't mean anything but that everybody's story is different.

Still, overall I give the book 4 out of 5 stars. I found it very uplifting and positive, and very motivational.

Have you read it? What are your thoughts?

Tuesday, 3 March 2015

Life's a beach + Let's grow together {Link-up #9}

The other day two girls told Rich that he looks like Jimmy Buffett, and I can't decide if it was a compliment or an insult?
Judge for yourself:
Image on the right found here

Hmm, maybe.
Anywho, the vacay is great, and we all enjoy it tremendously. Living with mom-in-law is way easier than I expected! All those yogic breaths (not to forget the patience juice) are doing the trick, and we are all having a grand time.
I thought I would share a few more pictures today, enjoy!

How is your week going? Any vacation coming up? Does it look like the snow is melting any time soon in your neck of the woods? I sure hope so!

Link up below and share what's going on with you guys, I would love to know! 

Farm Girl

Monday, 2 March 2015

The fleetingness of time

We are talking about death a lot here. Not in a morbid, depressing kind of way, but as part of the normal conversation. My father-in-law passed away five years ago, and Marianne has mentioned a few times how much he always wanted to see Hawaii (he never did). Lesson: Time is limited. Take every chance that presents itself. 
She is also the last woman standing out of the four siblings they used to be: her brother and two sisters all passed away many years ago. Lesson: You never know how much time you have.

She talks mostly about her home village and the people who live in it, which has always been her way. Rich knows the people she talks about, I don't - but there are stories there that are interesting nonetheless.

Yesterday she mentioned the old man who, at 80 years of age, built himself another house to live in. He passed away 8 years later, and the common opinion of the locals was "That wasn't worth it!", and "What a crazy old fool". I beg to differ. What a great thing to do! I don't know his reasons for building a house, but whatever they were, I'm sure this project gave his life purpose and joy. Creating something is one of the most satisfying things one can do, and why should there be an age limit?
The day you stop dreaming is the day you stop living, and once you don't have a purpose in your life you have given up. That's the moment when old people die, because their will to live ceases to exist.

Another lady she likes to harrumph about is a neighbour who is 83 years old, drives a Mercedes, and loves to hike. She drives herself in her sleek little car 700km south to the Alps to go hiking every year, a practice the locals shake their heads over. "She's too old to go hiking in the mountains!", they proclaim, and gossip about the inappropriateness of the actions of a single woman of that age.
She is my hero. Why should you stop doing what you love just because you are a widow? Or single? Or of a certain age? To hell with it! Do what you want, for as long as you can.

Remember those lessons: Time is limited. We never know how much time we have left.

Small towns can be hard to live in. Both Rich and I grew up in small towns and needed to break out. They can be like prisons, with walls formed by the judgments and prejudice of the people living there. If you are surrounded by narrow minds and a can't do-attitude long enough, it will start to affect you. It snuffs out your creativity, and makes you question the wisdom and sense of your aspirations. At some point, you will give up. If not, you will have to deal with criticism and ridicule all your life.
Narrow-minded people won't understand, because they don't want to. You can spend all your life explaining the reasons behind your dreams, and they will never get it.
The only way to convince them is by doing what you want anyway, and to succeed. If things work out, they will approve of it after the fact. Better yet, they will  be convinced that it was their idea all along! Hindsight is 20/20.  

But I digress. Living with family in close quarters brings up all sorts of memories and baggage from way back, sheesh.

Time is the subject of the day.
Rich and I have always been conscious of the limited time we have, because of our age difference. While every living creature on this earth has only a limited amount of time that will run out some point, most young people rarely think about it. Our giant hourglasses with the sand running through are always on the back of our minds. They govern many of the decisions we make. Me working part-time, our life on the farm and going on vacation as much as possible are all part of it.
We try to spend as much time as we can together, and make the most of it. Who knows what tomorrow will bring?

A few years ago I read the top five regrets of the dying, as recorded by a palliative nurse, and they have stayed with me ever since.

They are:
1. I wish I'd had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.
2. I wish I hadn't worked so hard.
3. I wish I'd had the courage to express my feelings.
4. I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.
5. I wish that I had let myself be happier.

I think about these regrets often, because I want to learn from them. The 83-year old hiker introduced earlier won't have any regrets when her time comes, and neither did the 80-year old house builder. At least that's what I fervently hope for them.

Let's be conscious of the fleetingness of time, and live the shit out of life! It will be over before we know it.