By Paulo Coelho
For The Bali Times

During a certain period of my life – notably between the years 1982 and 1990 – I kept a notebook where I jotted down my conversations with J., a person I consider above all a friend, but who had taught me much about the world’s symbolic language. Recently, reading my biography written by Fernando Morais, I decided to rewrite the following text:

– At heart, people complain, but adore routine – I said.
– Clearly, and the reason is very simple: routine gives them a false sensation that they are safe. Thus, today’s day will be exactly the same as yesterday’s day, and tomorrow will not bring surprises. When night comes, part of the soul complains that nothing different was experienced, but the other part is pleased – paradoxically, for the same reason.
“Evidently this safeness is totally false; nobody can control anything, and a change appears exactly at the most unexpected moment, catching the person when unable to react or fight.
– From what are we free to decide that we want a life that is all sameness, because God forces us to change it?
– What is the reality? It is the manner how we imagine it should be. If many people “think” that the world is this or that way, things around us stand still, and nothing changes for some time. However, life is a constant evolution – social, political and spiritual, at whatever level it is. For things to evolve, it is necessary that people change. As we are all interconnected, at times fate gives a shove to those that are preventing evolution.
– Usually in the form of a tragedy…
– The tragedy depends on the way you see it. If you choose to be a victim of the world, anything that happens to you will feed that dark side of your soul, where you consider yourself wronged, a sufferer, guilty and deserving punishment. If you choose to be an adventurer, the changes – even the inevitable losses, because everything in this world is transformed – may cause some pain, but at once will push you ahead, obliging you to react.

“In many verbal traditions, wisdom is represented by a temple, with two columns at the door: these two columns always have names of things opposite to themselves, but to exemplify what I want to say, we will call one Fear, and the other Desire. When a man is facing this door, he looks at the Fear door and thinks: “My God, what am I going to find ahead?” Then he looks at the Desire column and thinks: “My God, I’m so accustomed to what I have; I want to continue living as I have always lived.” And stays there motionless; that is what we call tedium.
– Tedium is…
– Movement that stops. Instinctively, we know that it is wrong, and we rebel against it. We complain to our husbands, wives, children and neighbors. But, on the other hand, we know that tedium and routine are safe ports.
– Can a person spend their entire life in this situation?
– He can take the biggest shove of his life, but resist it and continue there, always complaining – and his suffering was useless; it didn’t teach him anything.

© Translated by James Mulholland


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