Sunday, May 27, 2007

The Witch of Portobello

I strongly recommend all of you to go out and buy Paolo Coelho's latest book - The Witch of Portobello.

I have always loved Coelho's books. My favourite is the Alchemist - but of course! The others I loved are:
By the River Piedra I sat down and wept
The Pilgrimage
The Fifth Mountain
Eleven Minutes
I did not like Valkyries and Veronika Wants to Die and I felt that The Devil and Miss Prym was a little flat at the end - that there was much more he could do with that story. I felt that he held back the important revelations in that book - thinking that the world is not ready for it. But I know it was missing.

To tell you the truth, I haven't read a novel for many years. When I was a kid I read a lot, devouring books like a demon. Once I pick up a book, I wouldn't put it down until I finished it - going to school bleary eyed the next morning as I had only finished reading a particular book at 6 am. I would be very rude and read at the dinner table despite being scolded by my mum. By the time I was in University, I was too scared to read novels fearing that I might not be able to put them down and then I would miss my lectures and tutorials as well as deadlines for my assignments. When I came back to Malaysia, I brought back crates and crates of books, some signed by the authors eg John Mortimer (love him!) and some first editions, some gems I found at Camden Market where I used to browse on Sundays, buying antiques, eating a paper bag full of hot mini doughnuts and drinking freshly brewed steaming hot coffee. Yes, I used to do this all by myself ....

There was a point of time when I lived at Notinghill Gate, just at the top of Portobello Road. That was fun! Strolling down Portobello Road on weekends, going to the all day cinema down the road. You just have to pay for one ticket and you can watch several movies, come out, have a bite to eat and go in again whenever you feel like it ... This is where I would watch my arty farty movies, my favourite Pedro Almadovar movies etc. All these things I would do on my own - such as going to the opera, ballet & scouring antique markets. My brother, cousins and friends were ino interested in such activities. They went to Sting , Phil Collins and Genesis concerts. None of them could understand me - thinking that I'm such a bizarre moody person, sitting by myself at home listening to Le Nozze di Figaro or Don Giovanni, refusing to answer the phone or doorbell.... things haven't changed much since then. They still think I'm beyond eccentric.

Now my workmates think that too. Years ago my big boss had a word with me about my anti social behaviour - saying that I'm cliquish and selective with my friends. To tell you the truth, he is right. I can't stand having lots of people around me. I instantly feel my energy draining out. Most people are pretty toxic. And with all my meditation, cleansing and detoxing during weekends, the last thing I need is for these corporate vampires to suck my energy out. I take great heed of Al Jilani's words - stay away from ignorant people, stay away from people whose energy is lower than yours. My Sufi guide told me that our energy is like water. If your energy is high and you spend time with someone of lower energy, your energy will flow downwards to the other person so that your energies will balance. That's why you always feel tired when you spend time with people who have low energy levels and they feel rejuvenated when they are with you. Stay away from toxic people. They are energy spongers. What they should do is increase their energy levels on their own through meditation.

Anyway, back to Paolo Coelho's latest book. Here are some excerpts of some of my favourite passages in this book:
"A curse on all those who never listened to the words of Christ and who have transferred his message into a stone building ..... Today the Church has changed those [Christ's] words to read "Come unto me all ye who follow our rules, and let the heavy laden go hang."

"My way of approaching Allah - has been through calligraphy, and the search for the perfect meaning of each word. A single letter requires us to distill in it all the energy it contains, as if we were carving out its meaning. When sacred texts are written, they contain the soul of the men who served as an instrument to spread them throughout the world. And that doesn't apply only to sacred texts, but to every mark we place on paper. Because the hand that draws each line reflects the soul of the person making that line."

" Elegance isn't a superficial thing, it's the way mankind has found to honour life and work. That's why, when you feel uncomfortable in that position, you musn't think that it's false or artificial: it's real and true precisely because it's difficult. That position means that both the paper and the brush feel proud of the effort you are making. The paper ceases to be a flat, colorless surface and takes on the depth of the things placed on it. Elegance is the correct posture if the writing is to be perfect."

**(Tome this is the same with life: when all superfluous things have been discarded, we discover simplicity and concentration).

"In order to forget the rules, you must know them and respect them."
Paolo Coelho also quoted one of my favourite poets Kahlil Gibran from his masterpiece The Prophet:

"Is there anything you would withhold? Some day, all that you have shall be given. The trees give that they may live, for to withhold is to perish....

And what greater merit shall there be than that which lies in the courage and the confidence, nay the charity, of receiving? You give but little when you give of your possessions. It is when you give of yourself that you truly give."

In the book, one of the characters is an historian who said "the center of a person is the navel" and expounded on how important the navel is. Then he said "My daughter said that I was behaving oddly thinking only of myself - that I was in short, navel gazing!" Heeheeh, my fellow naval officers Daef and Art should take note of this!

"I spoke only of love. He says the earth needs rituals, well, I can guarantee that if there's love enough among you, you'll have an abundant harvest, because love is the feeling that transforms everything. But what do I see? Friendship. Passion died out a long time ago, because you've all got used to one another. That's why the earth gives what it gave last year, neither more nor less. And that's why, in the darkness of your souls, you silently complain that nothing in your lives changes. Why? Because you've always tried to control the force that transforms everything so that your lives can carry on without being faced by any major challenges."

"I am ... universal wisdom. I came into the world accompanied only by Love. I am the beginning of everything ... For me, love fills everything. It cannot be desired because it is an end in itself. It cannot betray because it has nothing to do with possession. It cannot be held prisoner because it is a river and will overflow its banks. Anyone who tries to imprison love will cut off the spring that feeds it, and the trapped water will grow stagnant and rank."

"Religions will revert to being a refuge for the weak, who are always in search of guidance."

On Sin:

"We all have a duty to love and to allow love to manifest itself in the way it thinks best. We cannot and must not be frightened when the powers of darkness want to make themselves heard, those same powers that introduced the word sin merely to control our hearts and minds .... What is sin? It is a sin to prevent Love from showing itself."

So ... what are you waiting for? Go get this book! However, even here, I felt Coelho held back and could have done much more with this book. He is just skimming the surface but I feel he did it on purpose to cater to a wider range of people. I understand why he does it. He throws in deep messages which most people would find unpalatable and couches it in an entertaining story so that these people would continue reading it ... and hopefully these messages sink in or provoke them to think and not just accept life as they were taught to by their parents, priests etc. I try to do that with Chapati Moments and some of you have picked it up whilst others are just entertained by this dysfuntional family I write about.... :)

1 comment:

Tempias said...

No wonder my boss says I'm anti social too,and sarcastic in my comments whilst brushing people off...tu lah kena tempias from my hot boiling temper when they try to sap my energy,esp those trying to be very "korporat'.Waste a lot of time and energy. I guess birds of the same feather flock together.