“To realize one’s destiny is a person’s only obligation.” – Paulo Coelho, From ‘The Alchemist’
At first, I began reading this book without much effort, at bedtime, in the dark- using my booklight– trying not to disturb my husband’s sleep. Rather than allowing myself to become engrossed in the story, I found my thoughts kept wandering back to another book I’d been reading (savoring, actually) called Reading Lolita in Tehran by Azar Nafisi. Resigning myself to the fact that my heart was set on finishing Mrs. Nafisi’s story first, I set The Alchemist aside, regretting that I’d become somewhat disappointed in the story.
In my unintended half-hearted effort, I thought The Alchemist was a simple story about a boring farm boy who had a fallen in love with a rich merchant’s girl, an educated girl who was out of his reach.
But I was wrong.
A few months later, for whatever reason– maybe it was the strawberry shortcake I’d eaten after dinner, I don’t know– one night I decided to begin reading The Alchemist to my daughter as a bedtime story. Since I was too full from the dessert and hot tea to read it aloud half laying down, I sat up on a nearby sofa next to her bed. Although her eyes were already heavy with sleepiness, I felt the need to offer some introductory context; as I began to re-read it from the beginning, my daughter was already sleeping, turning over every now and then.
I suppose at that point, I was really reading the book for my own benefit more than hers. I needed to hear this story. I needed to discover what was so great about this book; why had it been recommended by so many people from all walks of life? So this time, I focused more intently on the story, allowing myself to become fully involved with the main character (whom I’d had trouble identifying with at first). By deliberately putting forth more effort and concentration– by paying attention to all parts of the story, and not passing over the sometimes seemingly mundane, simple details– this time, the author’s wisdom and the book’s deep truths slowly began to sink in as I read page after page… aloud.
Maybe some books are meant to be read out loud– not merely read, but ‘told’ like a campfire story– rather than silently pondered in one’s mind. I’m convinced that this is true of this gem.
“To realize one’s destiny is a person’s only obligation.” – Paulo Coelho
What is your special destiny?
For architects, especially, I think this is a very tender question as our profession has faced tremendous, rapidly increasing changes over the past forty years.
This blog post was originally going to be a book review that segued into a full-blown post exhorting architects to reinvent ourselves in what seems to be “The Post ‘Architecture’ World.”
Instead, it is what it is… a post that whets the appetite to read Paulo Coelho’s amazing book The Alchemist (I’m still reading it myself).
I do believe we are shifting away from the 20th century model of “Architect as the “be-all-end-all” ‘Artiste'”…
What architects choose to become is up to each one of us– both collectively and individually. It will be interesting to see what direction we choose…