Book Takeaways || Like the Flowing River by Paulo Coelho

'Like the Flowing River' is a collection of anecdotes and notes by the esteemed author of 'The Alchemist', Paulo Coelho, and as such, it is filled with lovely inspirational stories and life lessons. It is always interesting to dip into the minds of some of the most celebrated authors in the world and this exploration of a few select records is no different. We are given a unique insight into the thoughts of a man who is knowledgeable, intuitive, and perfectly able to see not only the beauty in the world but also its secret meaning.

Coelho's anecdotes speak of everything, from milk replacements to the artistry of archery. What follows is a list of my top ten records from the collection, anecdotes that made me think, reconsider, muse, or mourn:

1. A story about how we are filled with the potential of the pencil and how we must remember: we can do great things but there is always a hand guiding us; a pencil is made better through being sharpened (or experiencing adversity or trouble); the ability to be erased (or the pleasure of retrospection) allows us to see the obvious path to justice; the graphite inside the pencil is what is really important; and we always leave a mark.

"The fool who loves giving advice on our garden never tends his plants at all." [28] 
2. The person who follows such a person's advice will only tend someone else's garden, and will miss out on valuable life experience.

3. A tale about friendship: Genghis Kahn went hunting with his falcon. He became thirsty and came across a stream, but his falcon would prevent him from drinking it. He became upset and killed the falcon, only to discover that a carcass was rotting upstream and the falcon was merely being loyal and attempting to save him. The lessons are: a friend is still a friend even when he does something you do not agree with; and, anything done in anger is destined to be a failure.

4. A beautiful statement about 'hope':
"That word that so often rises with us in the morning, gets sorely wounded as the day progresses, dies at nightfall, and is reborn with the new day." [31]

5. Confucius says: 'Be clear'. Lay down the law, set boundaries, communicate.

6. As an owner of many books, I felt a little guilty reading the thought that hoarding books or keeping them in a personal library inhibits the journey the books are meant to make.

7. Considering the distrust and terror taking place in the world today, this phrase was poignant for me:
"When a stranger approaches and we think he is our brother and all conflicts disappear, that is the moment when night ends and day begins." [82] 
The moment where we recognise our fellow man as a friend before believing he is a foe is the moment we can change the world.

8. Using the story about a meditation school believing cats were necessary for meditation practice, we are reminded that sometimes the reason we continue behaviours is unknown or has passed and the behaviour is thus no longer necessary.

9. We are told about an old man who is constantly insulted and abused by the people in his village. He does nothing but bless those who mock him and when he is asked why, he answers,
"We can each of us only offer what we have." [127-8]

10. There is a story of a new Emperor of China who needed a wife. To determine which woman in the land would be best suited, he asked them to nurture seeds that he gave them and the woman with the most beautiful flower would become his Empress. A maidservant was in love with the Emperor and did everything she could to care for the seed but it would not grow. On the day all the women returned to the palace, she was the only one without a beautiful flower to offer the Emperor. She became the Empress because of her honesty: the Emperor had given all the women sterile seeds.

Do you have your own favourite quotations from Paulo Coelho's works?

{Image credit: A-giâu, CC BY-SA 3.0 Biwa Lake Sunrise}


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