by Paulo Coelho
Harper (June 24, 2008)
Tucker’s Rating: 7 / 10
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What’s it about?: I can’t improve on the publishers description, “Brida, a young Irish girl, has long been interested in various aspects of magic but is searching for something more. Her search leads her to people of great wisdom. She meets a wise man who dwells in a forest, who teaches her to trust in the goodness of the world, and a woman who teaches her how to dance to the music of the world. As Brida seeks her destiny, she struggles to find a balance between her relationships and her desire to become a witch.”
Tucker’s Opinion: First off, you can never judge Paulo Coehlo novels by the description. A novel about an insecure wiccan girl, really? It’s awesome though. I love almost all his books, and I have learned a lot from reading them, even though they never sound like something I would care about. I think that’s because the subjects Paulo picks to write about are all overwhelmingly human, and he finds the stories that appeal to everyone not because of the obscure details or weird novelties, but because of the universality of the emotions and experiences in them. Brida is falls squarely into this category.
Notable Quotes (as marked by Tucker):
“Perhaps solitude has made his madness worse,” Brida thought, and again she felt the first stirrings of panic. She may have been young, but she knew the harm that loneliness could do to people, especially as they got older. She had met people who had lost the glow of being alive because they could no longer fight against loneliness and had ended up becoming addicted to it. They were, for the most part, people who believed the world to be an undignified, inglorious place, and who spent their evenings and nights talking on and on about the mistakes others had made. They were people whom solitude had made into the judges of the world, whose verdicts were scattered to the four winds for whoever cared to listen. Perhaps the Magus had gone mad with loneliness.
She was beginning to understand that there was a big difference between danger and fear.
“I know how you must be feeling,” she went on. “Sometimes we set off down a path simply because we don’t believe in it. It’s easy enough. All we have to do then is prove that it isn’t the right path for us. However, when things start to happen, and the path does reveal itself to us, we become afraid of carrying on.”
But there was something else he had never told her, and which she would possibly never know: that she, with her affection and her gaiety, had been largely responsible for him having rediscovered the meaning o life, that her love had driven him to the far corners of the Earth, because he needed to be rich enough to buy some land and live in peace with her for the rest of his days. It was his utter confidence in this fragile creature, whose life was now fading fast, that had made him fight with honor, because he knew that after the battle he could forget all the horrors of war in her arms, and that, despite all the women he had known, only there in her arms could he close his eyes and sleep like a child.
“I just want to say one thing to you,” she said. “Don’t bother trying to explain your emotions. Live everything as intensely as you can and keep whatever you felt as a gift from God. If you think that you won’t be able to stand a world in which living is more important than understanding, then give up magic now. The best way to to destroy the bridge between the visible and invisible is by trying to explain your emotions.”
It isn’t explanations that carry us forward, it’s our desire to go on.
She was on the beach with her father, and he asked her to go and see what the temperature of the water was like. She was five years old and glad to be able to help. She went to the water’ edge and dipped a toe.
“I put my feet in and it’s cold,” she told him.
Her father picked her up and carried her down to the water again and, without any warning, threw her in. She was shocked at first, but then laughed out loud at the trick he’d played.
“How’s the water?” asked her father
“It’s lovely,” she replied.
“Right, from now on, whenever you want to find out about something, plunge straight in.”
Even in that most important area of her life, love, she had failed to commit herself. After her first romantic disappointment, she had never again given herself entirely. She feared pain, loss, and separation. These things were inevitable on the path to love, and the only way of avoiding them was by deciding not to take that path at all. In order not to suffer, you had to renounce love. It was like putting out your own eyes in order not to see the bad things in life.
She remembered Wicca telling her about people who followed certain paths only to prove that they weren’t the right ones, but that wasn’t as bad as choosing a path and then spending the rest of your life wondering if you’d made the right choice. No one could make a choice without feeling afraid.
That was the law of life. That was the Dark Night, and no one could escape the Dark Night, even if they never made a decision, even if they lacked the courage to change anything, because that in itself was a decision, a change, except without the benefit of the treasures hidden in the Dark Night.
Sometimes, certain of God’s blessings arrive by shattering all the windows.
“Only the present has power over our lives,” replied Wicca. “When you read the future in the cards, you are bringing the future into the present, and that can cause serious harm. The present can confuse your future.”
“It doesn’t matter what image we have of ourselves. It doesn’t matter what disguises we put on, what smart answers or honorable excuses we give. During sex, it’s very difficult to deceive the other person, because that is when each person shows who they really are.”
“Never stop having doubts. If you ever do, it will be because you’ve stopped moving forward, and at that point, God will step in and pull the rug out from under your feet, because that is His way of controlling His chosen ones, by making sure they always follow their appointed path to the end. If, for any reason, we stop, whether out of complacency, laziness, or out of a mistaken belief that we know enough, He forces us on.”
“But you’re a Teacher of the Tradition of the Moon,” said Brida. “You know the answers.”
Wicca sat for a moment, absorbed, looking at the food. Then he said:
“I know how to travel between the present and the past. I know the world of the spirits, and I’ve communed with forces so amazing that no words in any language could describe them. I could perhaps say that I possess the silent knowledge of the journey that has brought the human race to where it is at this moment.
“But because I know all this, and because I am a Teacher, I also know that we will never ever know the ultimate reason for our existence. We might know the how, where, and when of being here, but the why will always be a question that remains unanswered. The main objective of the great Architect of the Universe is known to Him alone, and to no one else.”
A silence fell.
“Right now, while we’re here eating, ninety-nine percent of people on this planet are, in their own way, struggling with that very question. Why are we here? Many think they’ve found the answer in religion or in materialism. Others despair and spend their lives and their money trying to grasp the meaning of it all. A few let the questions go unanswered and live for the moment, regardless of the results or the consequences.
“Only the brave and those who understand the Traditions of the Sun and the Moon are aware that the only possible answer to the question is I DON’T KNOW.
“This might, at first, seem frightening, leaving us terribly vulnerable in our dealings with the world, with the things of the world, and with our own sense of our existence. Once we’ve got over that initial fear, however, we gradually become accustomed to the only possible solution: to follow our dreams. Having he courage to take the steps we always wanted to take is the only way of showing that we trust in God.”
She thought about the greatness of soul of the true sages, sages who had spent their entire life searching fo an answer that did not exist, but who were not tempted to invent an answer that did not exist, but who were not tempted to invent an answer when they realized there was none. Instead, they carried on humbly inhabiting a Universe they would never understand. The only way they could truly participate was by following their own desires, their own dreams, because that is how man becomes an instrument of God.
“So what’s the point of looking for an answer then?”
“We don’t look for an answer, we accept, and then life becomes much more intense, much more brilliant, because we understand that each minute, each step that we take, has a meaning that goes far beyond us an individuals. We realize that somewhere in time and space this question does have an answer. We realize that there is a reason for us being here, and for us, that is enough.
“We plunge into the Dark Night with faith, we fulfill what the ancient alchemists used to call our Personal Legend, and we surrender ourselves finally to each moment, knowing that there is always a hand to guide us, and whether we accept it or not is entirely up to us.”
“Men have been holding parties since the days when they lived in caves,” said his Teacher. “They’re the first group rituals we know of, and the Tradition of the Sun took it upon itself to keep that ritual alive. A good party cleanses the mind of all those taking part, but it’s very difficult to make that happen; it only takes a few people to spoil the general mood. Those people think they’re more important than the others; they’re hard to please; they think they’re wasting their time because they can’t make contact with anyone else. And they usually end up the victims of a mysterious form of poetic justice: they tend to leave weighed down by the astral larvae given off by those people who have managed to bond with others. Remember, the first road to God is prayer, the second is joy.”
“Not that it matters,” thought Wicca, because the age of miracles was returning, and no one could remain indifferent to the changes the world was beginning to experience. Within a few years, the power of the Tradition of the Sun would reveal itself in all its brilliance. Anyone not already following their own path would begin to feel dissatisfied with themselves and be forced to make a choice, they would either have to accept an existence beset with disappointment and pain or else come to realize that everyone was born to be happy. Having made their choice, they would have no option but to change, and the great struggle, the Jihad, would begin.”
“You have found your path. Few people have the courage to do so. They prefer to follow a path that is not their own. Everyone has a Gift, but they choose not to see it. You accepted yours, and your encounter with your Gift is your encounter with the world.”
“You can only be close to people if you are one of them.”
“Never be ashamed,” he said. “Accept what life offers you and try to drink from every cup. All wines should be tasted; some should only be sipped, but with others, drink the whole bottle.”
“How will I know which is which?”
“By the taste. You can only know a good wine if you have first tasted a bad one.”