Book Review: The Alchemist – Paulo Coelho

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Four stars.

I’m surprised of never hearing about this book, now in a 25th Anniversary edition. By Paulo Coelho, it is a well-told parable of the journey of a young man who loves to travel, and seeks his treasure, based on a recurring dream, at the pyramids of Egypt, a continent away.

I’m not an adherent of mysticism, and also not a scholar of the Koran. I did however enjoy the themes from these traditions that percolate up through the writing, the parables told as the boy undertook his adventures.

Each episode of his adventure: selling his flock of sheep and deciding to set out to pursue his Dream, meeting an old King who gives him two precious stones named Umim and Thummim, meeting an aging Merchant who himself realizes that striving for his goal was more important than reaching it, meeting the titular Alchemist, all become swirling threads, and messages of insight and hope.

It is reminiscent of The Little Prince by Antoine de St. Exupery. Also of ‘Tales of Power‘ by Carlos Castaneda.

CMIO’s take? ‘The world conspires to help those pursuing their Personal Legend.’ Perhaps I would not have said it in this way, but yes, I agree. In the world of human affairs, even in large academic medical centers and health systems, it is so easy to get caught up in ‘governance’ and too-rigidly respecting lines of authority and influence. As a result, it ‘makes us rather bear those ills we have than fly to others we know not of.’ (Shakespeares’ Macbeth) Sometimes we are too fearful to take a chance on our ideas. Worse yet, we don’t help encourage others to try new things and support them in their nascent efforts, especially when a kind word or slight nudge of support could make a world of difference. A good parable teaches us about ourselves. A great one entertains us as well, as this does.

Who could YOU support and encourage today? Let me know.

Author: CT Lin

CMIO, University of Colorado Health; Professor, University of Colorado School of Medicine

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