Very eagerly, I picked up this book, of which I had heard a lot. It was supposed to be the book to read to give you an insight into how to follow your heart and realize your dreams. It is supposed to take you on a journey into a spiritual dimension. This book inspired many readers, and has been a bestseller, and one of the fashionable books to discuss!
What I liked – The simple lucid language. It is a well written narrative. The spiritual words of wisdom, a lot of abstract made easy (arguably) for common people in the format of a tale/fable. If I had picked up this book years ago when it came out new, I probably wouldn’t have finished it. I would have dismissed it as one of those self-help humbugs. Maybe, the years that I have put on, experiences encountered, and the change in phases of my life, I could relate to it a little bit. The fact that as you grow you lose the capability to dream and will to pursue non-traditional ways rings a bell. Most of us try to fit into the framework of the “run-of-the-mill” way to live our lives, and end up becoming the “well settled bakers” even if our heart tells us to be the “shepherds who like to travel.”
Now the part that didn’t quite make the cut – It gets harder and harder to make any real sense out of it as you progress, and you are always trying to struggle and think of “the true hidden meaning” of the abstract that is written. It tired me.
Plus, I will take the philosophy with a pinch of salt. When living in a collective society, there needs to be a balance between it being all about me, my dreams, my heart etc. and the greater good. An individual’s life intersects with many people, and the actions and choices one makes has an impact on the lives, dreams and expectations of the people around. He says that come what may, always listen to your heart. Even when in doubt. Well, the fact is, life will present you with more complex questions, and times when you must not listen to “your heart” but do what is right. When in doubt, one needs to step back, have an open mind to evaluate all sides, and be ready for course correction, even if it means some decisions that may not be what you want. It may not be too bad to be the baker. Not everyone can afford the quest of the treasure. Destiny is a big word, and who knows what it really means. People are driven and inspired by the everyday small things they hear, think and do in the present. Very few people are aware of a specific tangible “treasure” they want to seek, or “Master Work” they want to achieve.
So Santiago meets with many interesting characters on his journey that are pursuing their dreams in different ways. The crystal shop owner, the Englishman wanting to become the alchemist, the Alchemist himself, the tribal chiefs and many more. The influence of these characters on Santiago stem from their own actions for the pursuit of their own dreams. Unfortunately the female character Fatima has no other bearing on the tale other than being the object of Santiago’s affection/obsession. Her only role is to be the “woman of the desert who waits for the man”. The tale has no references to her dream or completely ignores any of her struggles or pursuits. That kind of gives one a feeling that a woman’s perspective was left out of the whole quest.
Towards the end, everything ties back to belief and faith. And that part strongly aligns itself to religion and belief in god rather than agnosticism. At least that is what I felt, and for a book advocating philosophy which is more humanist, this subscription I thought wasn’t necessary.
Although, the idea that his destiny in-fact brings him right back to where it all began, is interesting. (Not stating specifics because it may spoil it for the new readers). But the interpretation can be both ways. One, it is the journey, not the end goal itself that matters. Or two – there is no point for the quest, and you will find what you want right around you. No need to go in search of it. So this was a bit confusing.
Also, the idea of paying heed to “the omens” everywhere, and that the omens will guide you is too vague and hard to digest.
I, frankly, was a bit underwhelmed. It could be because of the initial hype that heightened my expectations. Who knows, maybe I will feel different If read it again in a decade or so.
For now, I must go find myself a good thriller fiction.