Inspiration and its Hindrance in Coelho’s The Alchemist

What is the basic premise of allowing oneself to be seduced by the charm of inspiration? There is only one awaited decisive moment, that is, when things will at some point recede, rather than boil down, to a practicality.


This sudden retroversion emancipates again the basic utilitarian foundations of a finality when, by stripping all other accidental features, the sheer amalgamation of complex protocols suddenly become clear: some days might be an anxious prediction of an uncertain future, some, an ecstatic excessing of the present, and some, a replenishing identification of the past, but when the goal appears magically right in front of us, there is no other choice left and freedom gives us at best its full access to an affirmative disposition. When it happens, only the ironic consequences of the inspiration can tell. How and to what extent this clarity opens, that is the question.

There are conditions that are observable. For instance, it was becoming clear for the shepherd boy in Coelho’s The Alchemist that after he succeeds in following his dream, he decidedly knows perfectly what he wants in the end: “I’m coming, Fatima” he utters in his confident heart. She was not the dream and against the backdrop of an enigma calling his fate, he is seduced further to pursue his dream rather than stop in the middle of the timeline when he met her. Love does not keep a man from his calling – so it goes in the line that kept him going.

“You must understand that love never keeps a man from pursuing his Personal Legend.”

But after realizing his own fate, he cherishes at last in thinking how it was all a ridiculous plot: he goes back again to where he was under that Sycamore tree and having had his laugh of the treasure and situation, went on to realize an external cause other than his fate – this time, the fate of their love conjoined together and redeemed by the short hiatus intervening and making possible for his promise of love to be fulfilled.

The epilogue provoking the shepherd to submit into going to Fatima, however, was open-ended in a double-layered sense. Within the logic of his inspiration, there lies a paradoxical limit. While the ending expects fulfillment under the romanticism of choosing love, it does not fully reveal what might have happened after he pursued his dream. The shepherd boy’s choice, although full after going over the options first, is still bound by the element of possibility: his first drivel on love at the beginning of his early travels drawn from his then muse, the daughter of a merchant, ceased exactly at the moment when the possibility of bakers threatened his status as a mere shepherd; at that vital moment, he knew that at the level of status, his choice and the fact that he might merely be a choice for the merchant’s daughter are only partial analyses of what is to come. In the same manner, his promise of love for Fatima is partially mitigated by other conditions: his current status as an omen-reader, as an alchemist, did not happen over a minute and the bad signs forthcoming the raid of the oasis still stands. Besides, it merely shows Fatima as a prize, a status symbol to be read by a master signifier that was the protagonist: her life was fixated in a remote oasis seeking love and finding it in a yet again stagnant phase, perhaps to be overwhelmed by more distant stories aside from what she knows. If she serves merely as a vessel of such stories and relies on her inaction as a repose for tired souls in a paradise at the heart of the desert, will she get that much inspiration and agency too amidst eternally waiting from his barren vantage point?

The shepherd’s promise here becomes a sorry reminder of life’s absurdity, that while there are those who go on seeking everything first before choosing, there are also those who remain to be chosen and act as if they have made a choice. Where does the thread of the discourse go? It is also open. Whether he finds Fatima after a considerable time or whether Fatima still chooses him – that remains the hindrance of his inspiration. After all, he is merely under the euphoria of his current state and is deciding under the conditions of his past promise; what it does not say is the counter-possibility of what he wants, even if the decision was clear as day. Overconfidence is one bait of failure, so the limit speaks.

The challenge then of creatively finding out such decision resides in this aftermath of his leaving Fatima in the first place. Combining the elements if at all was a task laden beforehand to alchemists with varying degrees of imaginative power and creative prowess while penetrating into the soul of the universe. One can transform things into gold; one can inspire oneself to become one with heroes of old. The signs are complex and one needs a lot of life to make the certain path appear. There is no magic. If in video games, the passage to another level appears after one has completed one goal, in life, there are more goals that await extra completion to unlock a rather more serious goal. If this is a rite of passage then so it will be, because contentment is not the least sense an option for those inspired.

Inspirations reduce everything to a decision – that is to say, into the most practical goal lying clearly before us and yet ironically limits us to a shaky voluntarism: we know what to do, we just think we cannot do it or we still have to heave a lot of guts to do it. The name of this inspiration is aletheia – this truth that begets a responsibility after a clearing, because it not only allows us to forget our blueprinted fate, it also urges to extend this fate into something outside us; to a foreign land or to a new experience. What it reveals is our transparent malleable selves.

Aletheia takes time. More specifically, this disclosure to truth, this goal that engages us, takes absurd time, so that when it opens, we must be ready. This is what is meant by the appearance of inspirations: it does not start with the coming of the moment, it starts rather with its hindrance and requires such to be opened and to allow itself to be seduced by the moment. The finishing line of the shepherd then in the words “I’m coming, Fatima” is not an inspiration to be limited by a further clearing: quite the opposite, it is already the inspiration after he has found the clearing, his aletheia, in which no further limit can prevail.

Truth – and the ancients were right in pointing out this picture – is something out there: it calls us and it wants our coming. Even in modernity’s standards, meaning as a modern criterion to truth is also outside the eudemonic simulacrum. But even in its externality, it does not, however, leave one’s personal clearing behind, as what is also proposed by the Easterners with the existence of inner truth. Instead, truth charms its way as an inspiration until we learn to clear our way to our own inner truth. It remains double-layered. In this two-sided sense, people will persist in coming and going, finding truth in all the angles of reality. At most, the people who left gave us some truth to continue going. The people who come and go give us a little something to face what’s up ahead and it can either break or inspire.

Coming close to what inspires us is exciting. The future becomes enticing and further revelations are there to back the practical decisions we allow ourselves to direct us. The time to discover this truth lies in the rarity of the moment, but the revolutionary agency for this moment to come true lies in the direction set forth for us by truth itself. When the moment of clarity appears, we recede back to the time when there was only a simple truth to pursue, when we finally understand the meaning of the things we need in this life.


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