I enjoy reading Paulo Coelho’s novels. They are always inspirational. Or simply put – food for the soul. To be frank, I enjoy reading some of his earlier works better than his recent ones. Hence my expectation for “Aleph” was not that high. This book surprises me on several fronts. First, it is quite a page turner, which is not usually the case of Paulo Coelho’s books. Second, it seems genuine, pouring out from author’s personal experience. After some research (and to my horror as you will find out in just a bit), while “Aleph” may not have accounted for all that has happened, what is written is 100% bibliography based on a true story. Hence, depending on your moral compass, it could be inspirational for some, troubling for others.
The center theme of “Aleph” can easily be related by many. Routines wear us down. Great losses in life too may dip us into an emotional abyss. We may find faith and then lose it along the way. Or regrets in our past and worries in our future too can weigh us down. How then can we get out of this? A pilgrimage, as suggested by the author, may have the answer we need.
In “Aleph”, the 59 years old Paulo Coelho has taken a trip on the Trans-Siberian Railway to meet his readers across Russia. During his journey, a 21 years old Turkish girl Hilal has insisted to travel with Paulo and his team of editor, distributor, and translator. Coelho (who is married) and Hilal became physically, emotionally, and spiritually close that even with my rather liberate mindset, I was finding it a bit uncomfortable to read. But it is what it is. Two people performed rituals together in an intimate setting. And if you buy into the concept of reincarnation, that two lifetimes ago, Coelho and Hilal were lovers, that past and present are one, I suppose it is OK to be that close. A bit confusing if you are an outsider. But say for a moment that reincarnation does exist and we do happen to meet with the same people through time and space, perhaps what Coelho and Hilal have done is beautiful. It is certainly romantic to read. I love you like a river, said him to her. That is probably the most artistic thing a married man can say to his admirer (and lover from another lifetime).
There are quite a few quotes that are memorable, that I can relate and would like to share with you.
1. It’s what you do in the present that will redeem the past and thereby change the future.
2. When faced by any loss, there’s no point in trying to recover what has been, it’s best to take advantage of the large space that opens up before us and fill it with something new.
3. People never leave, we are always here in our past and future lives.
I think the first quote is self-explanatory. What we do at present matters the most. The next two are to help us coping with losses.
4. Although sometimes, we need to be strangers to ourselves. Then the hidden light in our soul will illuminate what we need to see.
What it means, I suppose, is that in order to rediscover ourselves, we need to look pass what has become so familiar. Examine our lives in the eyes of a stranger in a detached manner.
5. Now each morning, when your mind is still empty, devote a little time to the Divine … Inhale deeply and ask for all the blessings in the air to enter your body and fill every cell. Then exhale slowly, projecting happiness and peace around you. Repeat this ten times. You’ll be helping to heal yourself and contributing to healing the world as well.
I have not tried the above method. It may work out better than screaming out loud into the mirror every morning and say: This is going to be a great day!
6. Walking is doing wonders for body and soul. I’m completely focused on the present moment, for that is where all signs, parallel worlds and miracles are to be found. Time really doesn’t exist.
When I was young, I used to walk a lot, in great distance. My mother used to call me Walkman. I agree with Paulo that walking does wonders for our bodies and souls. Ideas do hit me. But I have yet to encounter lovers from my past incarnations that way.
7. Don’t be intimidated by other people’s opinions. Only mediocrity is sure of itself, so take risks and do what you really want to do.
8. Anyone who knows God cannot describe Him. Anyone who can describe God does not know Him.
Both quotes are again self-explanatory. But it does take some time to fully internalize.
9. Love is beyond time, or, rather, love is both time and space, but all focused on one single constantly evolving point – the Aleph.
That, is the Aleph. You may need to read the book in order to understand what he says.
10. We can never wound the soul, just as we can never wound God, but we become imprisoned by our memories, and that makes our lives wretched, even when we have everything we need in order to be happy.
On face level, this quote can be useful to most. But after reading the book, I think that the author may refer to memories of our past lives. I am not ready to believe in reincarnation (as yet). Having said that, we should be reminded that we have everything we need to be happy. And those things are within our reach.
11. Is it possible to deviate from the path God has made? Yes, but it’s always a mistake. Is it possible to avoid pain? Yes, but you’ll never learn anything. Is it possible to know something without ever having experienced it? Yes, but it will never truly be part of you.
This is probably one of my favorite quotes. We shall always seek to experience, accept the pain as it comes, and follow God’s will.
Last but not the least, there is one quote to share. I agree wholeheartedly.
12. Like the children we will never ever cease to be.