Tuesday, February 08, 2011

My favorite quotes from The Zahir by Paulo Coelho

“Freedom is not the absence of commitments, but the ability to choose-and commit myself to-what is best for me.” (16)

“Fanaticism is the only way to put an end to the doubts that constantly trouble the human soul.” (25)

“What is this Favor Bank?
One day, I’ll ask you for a favor and you could, of course, say no, but you’re conscious of being in my debt. You do what I ask, I continue to help you, and other people see that you’re a decent, loyal sort of person and so they too make deposits in your account-always in the form of contacts, because this world is made up of contacts and nothing else. They too will one day ask you for a favor, and you will respect and help the people who have helped you, and, in time, you’ll have spread your net worldwide, you’ll know everyone you need to know and your influence will keep on growing.
The Favor Bank is a risky investment, just like any other bank.” (29-30) The original idea of the Favor Bank was first discussed by an American writer.

“What is fidelity? The feeling that I possess a body and a soul that aren’t mine?”

“I have the idea that, if I stopped, life would become meaningless.” (35)

“And then there’s the Christmas tree. Do you know where that comes from?
No idea.
Saint Boniface decided to Christianize a ritual intended to honor the god Odin when he was a child. Once a year, the Germanic tribes would place presents around an oak tree for the children to find. They thought this would bring joy to the pagan deity.” (38)

“When people praise us, we should always keep a close eye on how we behave.” (56)

“The universe takes care of correcting our mistakes.” (56)

“As Dante wrote in The Divine Comedy, ‘The day that man allows true love to appear, those things which are well made will fall into confusion and will overturn everything we believe to be right and true.’ The world will become real when man learns how to love; until then we will live in the belief that we know what love is, but we will always lack the courage to confront it as it truly is.
“Love is an untamed force. When we try to control it, it destroys us. When we try to imprison it, it enslaves us. When we try to understand it, it leaves us feeling lost and confused.
“This force is on earth to make us happy, to bring us closer to Got and to our neighbor, and yet, given the way that we love now, we enjoy one hour of anxiety for every minute of peace.” (79)

“Love is the only thing that activates our intelligence and our creativity, that purifies and liberates us.” (83)

“I went to a train station today and learned that the distance between railway tracks is always 143.5 centimeters, or 4 feet 8 ½ inches. Why this absurd measurement? I asked my girlfriend to find out and this is what she discovered. When they built the first train carriages, the used the same tools as they had for building horse-drawn carriages. And why that distance between the wheels on carriages? Because that was the width of the old roads along which the carriages had to travel. And who decided that roads should be that width?... It was the Romans, the first great road builders, who decided to make their roads that width. And why?... the horses they used at the time took up 143.5 centimeters.
So the distance between the tracks I saw today, used by our state of the art high speed trains, was determined by the Romans. When people went to the United States and started building railways there, it didn’t occur to them to change the width and so it stayed as it as. This even affected the building of space shuttles. American engineers thought the fuel tanks should be wider, but the tanks were built in Utah and had to be transported by train to the Space Center in Florida, and the tunnels couldn’t take anything wider. And so they had to accept the measurement that the Romans had decided was the ideal. (118)

“What we need to learn is always there before us, we just have to look around us with respect and attention in order to discover where God is leading us and which step we should take next. I also learned a respect for mystery. As Einstein said, God does not play dice with the universe; everything is interconnected and has a meaning. That meaning may remain hidden nearly all the time, but we always know we are close to our true mission on earth when what we are doing is touched with the energy of enthusiasm. If it is, then all is well. If not, then we had better change direction.”(143-4)

“It is always important to know when something has reached its end. Closing circles, shutting doors, finishing chapters, it doesn’t matter what we call it; what matters is to leave in the past those moments in life that are over.” (145)

“Do you believe that your past loves have taught you to love better?
They’ve taught me to know what I want.
I didn’t ask that. Have your past loves taught you to love your husband better?
No, on the contrary. In order to surrender myself to him, I had to forget all the scars left by other men. Is that what you mean?
In order for the true energy of love to penetrate your soul, you soul must be as if you had just been born. Why are people unhappy ? Because they want to imprison that energy, which is impossible. Forgetting your personal history means leaving that channel clear…
That’s all very romantic, but very difficult too, because that energy gets blocked by all kinds of things: commitments, children, your social situation…
And after a while, by despair, fear, loneliness, and your attempts to control the uncontrollable. According to the tradition of the steppes-which is known as the Tengri-in order to live fully, it is necessary to be in constant movement, only then can each day be different from the last.” (178)

On letting go and change:

Photograph of Iceland, proof that the plate tectonics are moving and if the planet and its elements are moving, I wonder why shouldn't we all move? Why do we resist change? We must let go and embrace change. Here is what Coelho says about letting go and accepting change:

"That is why it is so important to let certain things go. To release them. To cut loose. People need to understand that no one is playing with marked cards; sometimes we win and sometimes we lose. Don't expect to get anything back, don't expect recognition for your efforts, don't expect your genius to be discovered or your love to be understood. Complete the circle. Not out of pride, inability, or arrogance, but simply because whatever it is no longet fits in your life. Close the door, change the record, clean the house, get rid of the dust. Stop being who you were and become who you are.

On epilepsy:

"Give me an example of some famous epileptics. Napoleon, Alexander the Great, Dante... Other epileptics develop their self-destructive side, as was the case with van Gogh. He described his convulsions as "the storm within"... At least he managed in his paintings to transform his self-destruction into a reconstruction of the world. Some people suspect that Lewis Carroll wrote Alice in Wonderland in order to describe his own experiences of epilepsy. The story at the beginning of the book, when Alice falls down a black hole, is an experience familiar to most epileptics. During her journey through Wonderland, Alice often sees things flying and she herself feels very light-another very precise description of the effects of an epileptic attack... Literature is full of examples of writers with a suspected or confirmed diagnosis of epilepsy: Moliere, Edgar Allan Poe, Glaubert... Dostoevsky had his first attack when he was nine years old, and said that it brought him moments when he felt utterly at peace with the world as well as moments of terrible depression." (188-9)

On how we want people to love us:

"Finally, he explained to me that suffering occurs when we want other people to love us in the way that love should manifest itself- free and untrammeled, guiding us with its force and driving us on." 294


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