Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Entry 118 7.16.11

Entry 118, July 16th, 2011, 4:56pm (GMT +2)

I mentioned a book yesterday, “The Alchemist,” by Paulo Coelho. Well, I read it again today, and am beginning to feel it sift through my brain. It's a short book, seventy some pages, but I highly recommend it to anyone who enjoys books about people searching for truth. It reminds me of “Siddhartha” in many ways.

Anyway, here's a brief look at the story. Santiago is a young shepherd from Andalusia. He left the seminary (his parents wanted him to become a priest) so that he could travel. After a few years of this he begins having a recurring dream about a treasure hidden in the pyramids. Shortly thereafter he meets an old man claiming to be the king of Salem who gives him a pair of stones, and he leaves for Africa to find his destiny (even though he has no idea where Egypt or the pyramids are). I don't want to spoil the rest for you, but it's a story about omens, free will, and courage.

Here's the most surprising thing that I realized after reading it. Throughout the book, Santiago comes to realize that everything is part of a larger, unnameable whole (the tao, perhaps?). The soul of the world (as the alchemist calls it) leaves him signs everywhere that point to his destiny, because “when one is pursuing what they are supposed to find, the whole universe conspires to help them.” The surprising thing about this is that I could agree with him.

I didn't know that I could believe that there is a universal, unnameable truth to the universe. I profess agnosticism in day to day life and until now thought that faith was something beyond me. How can I reconcile agnosticism with belief?

As I understand it, agnosticism refers to the impossibility of proving god's existence or nonexistence. This is true – an intellectual proof of god's existence is impossible – but that doesn't mean that we can't know in other ways. As the Tao te Ching says: “How do I know this is true?/I look inside myself and see.” So maybe I am capable of faith, if I can only learn to “know” things in ways that are alternatives to intellectual reasoning.

So do I think that the omens that Santiago sees in the book are literally signs left by a conscious deity? No. But I do think that people see what they need to see sometimes. Just because they come from inside instead of outside doesn't make them any less powerful or important.

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