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Fate is Unescable: the Struggle of Free Will in The Alchemist

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The world is Spiritual. Most people believe to some extent of an external power or force, whether that be God, a ghost or even destiny. For example, Muslims believe in Allah, Christians believe in Jesus, Jewish people believe in God. If you boil it all down their beliefs are quite similar in certain aspects, they all believe in one thing ‘Maktub’ which means our life is all written by the same hand, our destiny, our fate and what we accomplish in life. Our entire life is written in a book from the moment we are born.

The Universe conspires to make us achieve what’s written in these “books.” We call this the experience of life, it shapes who we are and what we do. If its ‘Maktub’ for you to become an achiever, you will become an achiever. The world will lead you on the right path and you will have to follow it. If its “Maktub” for you to encounter a setback, there is no escaping or avoiding your destiny as it was written in stone. Every story that has already been told have different variations based on its storyteller, but those stories will be passed on through different generations of people, until the very end of time. In the novel ‘The Alchemist’ by Paulo Coelho there is a quote that states: “At that moment, it seemed to him that time stood still, and the Soul of the World surged within him. When he looked into her dark eyes and saw that her lips were poised between a laugh and silence, he learned that the most important part of the language that all the world spoke-the language that everyone on earth was capable of understanding in their heart. It was love.” (Coelho 92)

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This event is very essential to the story and our lives in general. At the beginning of the Alchemist, Santiago believed that he was in love with the butcher’s daughter, but in reality, he had never loved anyone. Until the day he met Fatima no words were exchanged between the two of them. Yet they understood that they were in love, love is a universal language in the world after all. It’s the only language humans can speak without words, it’s unexplainable, to say the least. The underlying meaning and purpose of everything we do in life is to love something and work alongside it in harmony. It’s like a contract essentially if it wasn’t for one thing. Love, the fact that we live with the person we love in perfect harmony and do the unthinkable for them shows how deep and sacred love really is to us humans. Love and hope are two deeply connected state of mind, in fact, love is the core of hope. Hope derives from our love for someone or something. That’s why when we are sick or someone we love is sick, we pray for them to recover and get better because we love ourselves and the people around us. That’s why we don’t want them to get hurt. Another example is the Road theory, it basically states a man would live as long as he could because of his love for his son. Santiago was able to continue his journey because his love for Fatima was so strong, it was a drive for him to continue living, to impress her. Yet he could not impress her if he died. So he fought to live and so he did. Our lives would be incomplete without love and without love there would be no hope in life. His prewritten destiny guided him to be with the one who the universe thought was written for him. From the moment he was born it was “Maktub” for him to love Fatima and no one else. Which proves that everything is written in a book and there’s no changing of fate.

Fear is the biggest obstacle in our pursuit of legends and goals. It’s bigger than the obstacle itself. When talking to the Alchemist, Santiago was thinking to himself “Tell your heart that fear of suffering is worse than the suffering itself. And that no heart has ever suffered when it goes in search of its dreams, because every second of the search is a second encounter with God and with eternity.” Any new pursuit requires entering uncharted territory, that’s scary. Yet with any great risk comes great reward as with all things. The experience you gain in pursuing your dream will make it not only worthwhile but a lifelong, memorable journey. The universe will get rid of this fear if it’s your destiny to finish that obstacle. If it’s not your destiny the universe creates that fear as an obstacle for you and that distinguishes the brave people, those amongst us destined for great accomplishments in life, from the others. Growth, change and evolution are weaved into the fabric of reality. Becoming a better version of yourself creates a ripple effect that benefits everything around you: your lifestyle, your family, your community. Without doing things you fear you cannot accomplish that. The crystal merchant is the biggest example of fear, he’s by far the weakest character mentally. He allowed fear to rule his life, as a result, this makes him deeply unhappy and filled with regret. Just because he feared that after he completed his obligatory visit to Mecca he would have nothing else to live for. Reinforcing the fact that fear acts as a bigger obstacle than the obstacle itself. Living in fear also leads to a sad and unfulfilled life. Fear is another tool used by the universe to rectify your course on the right path towards your destiny.

Fate vs Free Will: This is one of the most prominent themes in the book. It is mentioned from start to finish. Some characters in the book believe in fate. An example would be the crystal merchant’s motto “Maktub” (Coelho 61) this means “its written.” Others believe that they control their own destinies. In my opinion, the old king has the most intriguing opinion on fate and free will. The king said while talking to Santiago, “[fate] It describes people’s inability to choose their own Personal Legend and it ends up stating that everyone believes the world’s greatest lie.” (Coelho 18) The King then goes on to describe what the world’s greatest lie is. “It’s this: that at a certain point in our lives, we lose control of what’s happening to us, and our lives become controlled by fate. That’s the world’s greatest lie.” (Coelho 18) this statement is incredibly Intriguing and very true. The king is basically saying that these two opposite terms are completely connected. He is saying that something is always fated for us, that we all have a “Personal Legend” but it is up to us to make the right decisions, to follow our hearts and omens to achieve our own Personal Legends, which is the best possible fate that is full of enlightenment. Although we cannot change our destiny we can behave and make choices that ultimately allows our life to be the best possible. That’s why people who embrace their life as it currently is are generally happier and more fulfilled than those who are unsatisfied with their lives.

In the novel ‘The Alchemist’, the spiritual unity represented by the Soul World binds together all of nature, from human beings to the sand in the desert. This idea underlines the parallel we see in the novel between the Alchemist purifying metal into gold to Santiago purifying himself into someone capable of achieving his Personal Legend. According to the novel, the Soul of the World has created the ultimate desire, or Personal Legend, for everything, whether Santiago or a piece of iron. To accomplish your personal Legend each must learn to bond with the Soul World, which purifies it. That continual purification ultimately leads to what we all want most perfection. This part of humans, metal, and all other things in the universe share the same goal demonstrating that all elements in nature are essentially different forms of a single point. Furthermore, over and over and over again we see Santiago has to communicate with his surroundings and nature. The novel calls it the common language of the world. Santiago’s horse, for instance, communicates him by showing him evidence of life in an apparently infertile expanse of the desert, and Santiago must employ the help of the desert, the wind, and the sun in order to ‘turn into the wind’. As the Alchemist says he will leave Santiago if worse comes to worst. Everything from a grain of sand to God himself shares the same spiritual essence. This pantheistic view dominates the Alchemist, along with the individual, evolutionary theology expressed through the theme of alchemy, it forms the book’s core messages. That we must bond with the spiritual world to achieve our Personal Legend. Destiny is unchangeable no matter what we do or what we accomplish since it has already been written in our books. Fate cannot be changed despite the power we have to change ourselves we cannot change what’s bound to happen. Our lives are all written in a book and changing that book is impossible.

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