Highlights from Paulo Coelho’s The Pilgrimage

ON THE CAMINO DE SANTIAGO, rainy mornings give way to crisp afternoons, where all one must do is take the next step, and then the next.

My dream is to one day hike the Camino de Santiago like Paulo Coelho in his book The Pilgrimage. The journey takes Coelho from Southwest France to the shrine of the apostle Saint James the Great, in the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela in Galicia, Spain.

This is the story of a walk — imbued with history, a connection with nature, and the enrichment of one’s spirit.

I’ve read The Pilgrimage several times over the years. Each time, Coelho’s mystifying writing style captivates and inspires me to stop, look around, and seek meaning from the simplest acts.

There’s so much to learn from a long walk; how to be alone with one’s thoughts, how to savor a journey, and how to find peace through repetition.

The Pilgrimage holds a special place in my heart. It portrays the style that I derive tremendous joy from writing in myself. This is the quintessential first book to launch my Favorite Books Series, where I’ll simply be providing quotes and thoughts from my favorite stories.

I return to Coelho’s magical texts when seeking to get lost in another world. Yet, getting lost in a world like this helps me better understand my own.

Confronting Death

“Human beings are the only ones in nature who are aware that they will die. For that reason and only for that reason, I have a profound respect for the human race, and I believe that its future is going to be much better than its present.

Even knowing that their days are numbered and that everything will end when they least expect it, people make of their lives a battle that is worthy of being with eternal life. What people regard as vanity — leaving great works, having children, acting in such a way as to prevent one’s name from being forgotten — I regard as the highest expression of human dignity.”

“Still, being fragile creatures, humans always try to hide from themselves the certainty that they will die. They do not see that it is death itself that motivates them to do the best things in their lives.

They are afraid to step into the dark, afraid of the unknown, and their only way of conquering that fear is to ignore the fact that their days are numbered. They do not see that with an awareness of death, they would be able to be even more daring, to go much further in their daily conquests, because then they would have nothing to lose — for death is inevitable.”

On Love

“There are three Greek words that mean love,” he began. “Today you are seeing a manifestation of eros, the feeling of love that exists between two people. A girl near us was staring at Petrus and me. Petrus held up his cup of wine and made a toast in her direction. The girl laughed in embarrassment and pointed towards her parents, as if to explain why she did not come closer. “That’s the beautiful side of love,” Petrus said. “The love that dares, the love for two older strangers who have come from nowhere and will be gone tomorrow — gone into a world where she would like to travel, too.”

“Let us speak of true love, which grows and grows, and makes the world go round, and makes people wise!”

“And those two, they haven’t been affected by hypocrisy like the others. They look like working people. They find the power of love in the work they do. It’s there that eros shows its most beautiful face, because it’s united with that of philos. Philos is love in the form of friendship. It’s what I feel toward you and others. When the flame of eros stops burning, it is philosophical that keeps a couple together. Agape is in both eros and philos — but it’s just a phrase.”

“All of us seek eros, and then when eros wants to turn itself into philosophical, we think that love is worthless. We don’t see that it is philosophy that leads us to the highest form of love, agape.

Agape is total love. It is the love that consumes the person who experiences it. Whoever knows and experiences agape learns that nothing else in the world is important — just love. This is the kind of love that Jesus felt for humanity, and it was so great that it shook the stars and changed the course of history. His solitary lief enabled him to accomplish things that kings, armies and empires could not.”

My Favorite — The Ultimate Mansion of Art

“Have pity on those who are fearful of taking up a pen, or a paintbrush, or an instrument, or a tool because they are afraid that someone has already done so better than they could, and who feel themselves to be unworthy to enter the marvelous mansion of art. But have even more pity on those who, having taken up the pen, or the paintbrush, or the instrument, or the tool, have turned inspiration into a paltry thing, and yet feel themselves to be better than others. Neither of these ends of people know the law that says, for there is nothing covered that will not be revealed, nor hidden that will not be known.”

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