“La Vida es Neblina.” (“Life is but a Vapor”)
“Qué es vuestra vida? Ciertamente es neblina que se aparece por un poco de tiempo, y luego se desvanece.” (For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away.) - Santiago (James) 4:14b
I read The Alchemist, by Paulo Coelho, many years ago. The rolling pasturelands of Andalusia existed in a fable that featured a shepherd boy (Santiago) and his travels to the exotic land of morocco and beyond in order to discover his own Personal Legend. I loved the book the first time I read it, but as I begin to read it for a second time, the characters and places are real…they surround me.
Andalusia, mi pueblo blanco
As write this, I sit in a sleepy pueblo blanco that is nestled in the hillside of Andalusia. I look out my window and I see the ‘not-so-far-off’ mountains of morocco waving at me from just beyond the sparkling Mediterranean Sea. Santiago’s quest for his treasure doesn’t seem so crazy as it did before. It seems within reach.
Over the past few years, my faith has grown and perspective has changed. It is not only Santiago’s Personal Legend unfolding as I re-read this fable, but as I put the book down, and walk these very same Andalusia hills, I feel beyond blessed to be given the opportunity to pursue God’s purpose for my own life today.
Here’s a short passage from the beginning of The Alchemist:
“They were both silent for a time, observing the plaza and the townspeople. It was the old man who spoke first.
“Why do you tend a flock of sheep?”
“Because I like to travel.”
The old man pointed to a baker standing in his shop window at one corner of the plaza. “When he was a child, that man wanted to travel, too. But he decided first to buy his bakery and put some money aside. When he’s an old man, he’s going to spend a month in Africa. He never realized that people are capable, at any time in their lives of doing what they dream of.”
“He should have decided to become a shepherd,” the boy said.
“Well, he thought about that,” the old man said. “But bakers are more important people than shepherds. Bakers have homes, while shepherds sleep out in the open. Parents would rather see their children marry bakers than shepherds.”
The boy felt a pang in his heart, thinking about the merchant’s daughter. There was surely a baker in her town.
The old man continued, “In the long run, what people think about shepherds and bakers becomes more important for them than their own Personal Legends.”
The old man leafed through the book, and fell to reading a page he came to. The boy waited, and then interrupted the old man just as he himself had been interrupted. “Why are you telling me all this?”
“Because you are trying to realize your Personal Legend. And you are at the point where you’re about to give it all up.”
“And that’s when you always appear on the scene?”
“Not always in this way, but I always appear in one form or another. Sometimes I appear in the form of a solution, or a good idea. At other times, at a crucial moment, I make it easier for things to happen. There are other things I do, too, but most of the time people don’t realize I’ve done them.”
Mediterranean Sea and Morocco
As I am reading The Alchemist again, “La vida es neblina” continues to echo through my spirit. What if I am not here tomorrow? Am I seizing each and every moment today? Am I pursuing my Personal Legend – the calling that God created me to realize on this earth – to my fullest potential? Of course God’s timing can be different than mine, but am I using this as an excuse to delay action for another day?
It’s easy to get caught up in the idea – the fable – of our dream; but what am I (and you) doing today to pursue God and his purpose for my (your) life?
When we realize our Personal Legend isn’t for ourselves, but our gift to the world, how can we not courageously take steps towards it?
“La vida es neblina”.