Words of Wisdom

By Paulo Coelho
For The Bali Times

Kazantzakis and God

During his whole life, the Greek author Nikos Kazantzakis (Zorba, The Last Temptation of Christ) was an absolutely coherent man. Although he touched on religious themes in many of his books – such as an excellent biography of Saint Francis of Assisi – he always considered himself a confirmed atheist. Well, this confirmed atheist wrote one of the most beautiful definitions of God that I have ever come across:

“We gaze with perplexity at the highest part of the spiral of force that governs the Universe. And we call it God. We could give it any other name: Abyss, Mystery, Absolute Darkness, Total Light, Matter, Spirit, Supreme Hope, Supreme Despair, Silence. But we call it God, because only this name – for some mysterious reason – is capable of making our heart tremble with vigor. And let there be no doubt that this trembling is absolutely indispensable for us to be in contact with the basic emotions of the human being, emotions that are always beyond any explanation or logic.”

Ben Abuyah and learning

Rabbi Elisha ben Abuyah used to say:

“Those who are open to life’s lessons and who nurture no prejudices are like a blank sheet of paper on which God writes his words with divine ink

“Those who are always looking on the world with cynicism and prejudice are like a sheet of paper already written upon and on which there is no room for new words.

“Don’t bother about what you already know, or what you don’t know. Don’t think about the past or the future; just let the divine hands write down each day the surprises of the present.”

Begoña and rhythm

“There was something missing in your lecture about the Road to Santiago,” a pilgrim told me as soon as we left the House of Galicia in Madrid, where I had just attended a conference.

There was much missing, since my intention had merely been to share some of my experiences. Nevertheless, I invited her for a coffee, curious to learn what she considered an important omission.

And Begoña – that was her name – told me:

“I have noticed that the majority of pilgrims, whether on the Road to Santiago, or on the paths of life, always try to follow the rhythms of others.

“At the beginning of my pilgrimage, I tried to stay with my group. It was tiring and demanded of my body more than I could give. I was always tense, and in the end had trouble with a tendon in my left foot. Unable to walk for two days, I understood that I would only reach Santiago if I obeyed my own personal rhythm.

“I took longer than the others, and had to walk alone for long stretches, but it was only by respecting my own rhythm that I managed to complete the journey. Since then I have applied this to everything I must do in life: to respect my own tempo.”

© Translated by James Mulholland


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