My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Manuscript Found in Accra (2012) by Paulo Coelho is one of those books you’d like to keep by your bedside to read a chapter each night before sleep or upon waking early in the morning.
The chapters are divided into the following categories the Copt discusses to a crowd in Jerusalem on the eve of a battle: Defeat; The Defeated Ones; Solitude; Usefulness & Uselessness; Change; Beauty; Uncertainty; Lost Loves; Choices; Sex; Love & Friendship; Elegance; Work; Luck & Success; Miracles; Anxiety; the Future & Dreams; Loyalty; Personal Weapons & Wisdom; Enemies; and three brief concluding anecdotes from a Rabbi, an Imam, and a Christian Priest.
The book is a total of 190 pages, making it a swift read for those days when you just need some positive insight and motivation into life’s long and weary road.
To begin, one young man who was not chosen to go to war against the invading army outside the walls of Jerusalem says to the Holy Man: “My city thinks I am not good enough to fight. I am useless” (p 35).
The Copt replies:
“In a desperate attempt to give meaning to life, many turn to religion, because a struggle in the name of a faith is always a justification for some grand action that could transform the world. ‘We are doing God’s work,’ they tell themselves.
“And they become devout followers, then evangelists, and finally, fanatics.
“They don’t understand that religion was created in order to share the mystery and to worship, not to oppress or convert others. The greatest manifestation of the miracle of God is life…
“Ask a flower in the field: ‘Do you feel useful? After all, you do nothing but produce the same flowers over and over.
“And the flower will answer: ‘I am beautiful, and beauty is my reason for living” (p 39-40).
The Copt continues to discuss what it means to be useful:
“A life is never useless. Each soul that came down to Earth is here for a reason.
“The people who really help others are not trying to be useful, but are simply leading a useful life. They rarely give advice, but serve as an example.
“Do one thing: Live the life you always wanted to live. Avoid criticizing others and concentrate on fulfilling your dreams. This may not seem very important to you, but God, who sees all, knows that the example you give is helping Him to improve the world. And each day, He will bestow more blessings upon it” (p 42).
Lou Holtz, retired football player/coach/author/motivational speaker, said it best: “I can’t believe that God put us on this earth to be ordinary.”
The Universe knows this as well: that each person has greatness within. And most often people choose to ignore such greatness and they believe in the ordinary and the tame and the uselessness of their existence.
But much of this has to do with a fear of change.
The Copt replies to such fears concerning change:
“Dreaming carries no risks. The dangerous thing is trying to transform your dreams into reality.
“But the day will come when Fate knocks on our door. It might be the gentle tapping of the Angel of Good Fortune or the unmistakable rat-a-tat-tat of the Unwanted Visitor [Death]. They both say: ‘Change now!’ Not next week, not next month, not next year. The angels say: ‘Now!’” (p 48)
It was the great Roman emperor/philosopher/warrior Marcus Aurelius who said it clearest: “The Universe is change.”
But the new day begins and we drag ourselves out of our beds to our jobs that do not fulfil us, do not complete us, nor give birth to who we really are on the inside. And such labor, such duty is either constant agony or our greatest challenge. But what of this work? the people of Jerusalem ask.
The Copt answers:
“There are two types of work.
“The first is the work we do because we have to in order to earn our daily bread. In that case, people are merely selling their time, not realizing that they can never buy it back.
“They spend their entire existence dreaming of the day when they can finally rest. When that day comes, they will be too old to enjoy everything life has to offer. Such people never take responsibility for their actions. They say: ‘I have no choice.’
“However, there is another type of work, which people also do in order to earn their daily bread, but in which they try to fill each minute with dedication and love for others…
“There is no point saying: ‘Fate was unfair to me. While others are following their dreams, here I am just doing my job and earning my living.
“Fate is never unfair to anyone. We are all free to love or hate what we do.
“When we love, we find the same joy in our daily activity as do those who one day set off in search of their dreams.
“No one can know the importance or greatness of what they do. Therein lies the mystery and the beauty of the Offering: it is the mission that was entrusted to us, and we, in turn, need to trust it” (p 117-120).
Another great man by the name of Erich Fromm, a German psychologist/humanistic philosopher/sociologist, added to these thoughts years ago: “Man’s main task in life is to give birth to himself, to become who he potentially is. The most important product of his effort is his own personality.”
The Copt continues:
“The person who has set off in search of his dreams will also have moments when he regrets his decision, and then all he wants is to go back and find a job that will pay him enough to survive.
“The following day, though, the heart of every worker or every adventurer will once again be filled with euphoria and confidence. Both will see the fruits of the Offering and will be glad.
“Because both are singing the same song: the song of joy in the task that was entrusted to them.
“The poet would die of hunger if there were no shepherds. The shepherd would die of sadness if he could not sing the words of the poet.
“Through the Offering you are allowing others to love you. And you are teaching others to love through what you offer them” (p 120-121).
It is this love that fuels the heart of those mad few who are courageous enough to chase after their dreams, even when their friends/family/teachers refuse to help. But the dreamers must go on, driven not by fame or riches or glory but by the all-powerful love for what they do and how such love can shape the world for the better. But the envious do not see such love and hope such dreamers will fail, despite the envious being dreamers also and wishing secretly for their own success.
The Copt speaks at length of such success:
“Success does not come from having one’s work recognized by others. It is the fruit of a seed that you lovingly planted.
“When harvest time arrives, you can say to yourself: ‘I succeeded.’
“You succeeded in gaining respect for your work because you did not work only to survive, but to demonstrate your love for others.
“You managed to finish what you began even though you did not foresee all the traps along the way. And when your enthusiasm waned because of the difficulties you encountered, you reached for discipline. And when discipline seemed about to disappear because you were tired, you used your moments of repose to think about what steps you needed to take in the future” (p 125).
And we-dreamers-of-the-universe cannot achieve success alone, nor do we try. But far too often people of this world would rather take bribes or exchange socio-status-quid-pro-quo than to lend an honest helping hand down to pull someone up. The world often chooses to push people down rather than lifting them to a better place.
The Copt continues:
“And when you realized that you would have to ask for help, you did not feel humiliated. And when you learned that someone needed help, you showed them all that you had learned without fearing that you might be revealing secrets or being used by others…
“Success comes to those who do not waste time comparing what they are doing with what others are doing; it enters the house of the person who says ‘I will do my best’ every day…
“Not everyone who owns a pile of gold the size of that hill to the south of our city is rich. The truly rich person is the one who is in contact with the energy of Love every second of his existence” (p 126-127).
Still there will be times when on the path of success we must stop and ask ourselves:
“Are my values still intact?
“Am I trying to please others and do what they expect of me, or am I really convinced that my work is a manifestation of my soul and my enthusiasm?
“Do I want success at any price or do I want to be a successful person because I manage to fill my days with Love?” (p 127)
The Copt tells of what ‘real success’ is:
“Because that is what real success means: enriching your life, not cramming your coffers with gold” (p 127).
But as we dream we work day in and day out with love in our hearts for the joys of our labors alone and wait and wait and wait and it is this testing of one’s patience that tries the heart the most.
The Copt replies to this impatience:
“Respect the time between sowing and harvesting.
“Then await the miracle of the transformation…
“Meanwhile: if anyone did dare ask, the answer would be: I considered giving up. I thought God was no longer listening to me, I often had to change direction, and, on other occasions, I lost my way. Despite everything, though, I found it again and carried on, because I was convinced there was no other way to live my life.
“I learned which bridges should be crossed and which should be burned…
“What is success?
“It is being able to go to bed each night with your soul at peace” (p 128-129).
As we lay our heads down with our souls at peace with the world, with our fates, with our victories and defeats, we know that “the great wisdom of life is to realize that we can be the masters of the things that try to enslave us” (p 146).
Still our unfulfilled dreams carry us forward through the good times and the bad. Through sunny days and stormy ones. And still there will be those doubters who question your dreams and try to make you feel guilty and ask, “Who are you to dare to dream your dream?”
The Copt answers these half-dead souls:
“Our dream, the desire that is in our soul, did not come out of nowhere. Someone placed it there. And that
Someone, who is pure love and wants only our happiness, did so only because he also gave us the tools to realize our dreams and our desires…
“Love—because you will be the first to benefit. The world around you will reward you, even if, at first, you say to yourself: ‘They don’t understand my love.’
“Love does not need to be understood. It needs only to be shown…
“The greatest gift God gave us is the power to make decisions.
“We were all told from childhood that what we wanted to do was impossible. As we accumulate years, we also accumulate the sand of prejudices, fears, and guilt.
“Free yourself from that. Not tomorrow, not tonight, but now…
“And precisely when everything seems to be going well and your dream is almost within your grasp, that is when you must be more alert than ever. Because when your dream is almost with your grasp, you will be assailed by terrible guilt.
“You will see that you are about to arrive at a place where very few have ever set foot, and you will think that you don’t deserve what life is giving you.
“You will forget all the obstacles you overcame, all that you suffered and sacrificed. And because of that feeling of guilt, you could unconsciously destroy everything that took you so long to build…
“But if a man understands that he is worthy of what he has struggled so long for, he will realize that he did not get there alone and must respect the Hand that led him.
“Only someone capable of honoring each step he takes can comprehend his own worth” (p 152-155).
So we must ask ourselves each day: “Do I honor each step I must take to realize my dreams?”
I know I certainly have.
When that is the case, there is but one thing left to do.
The Copt ends the book by saying:
“Blessed are those who hear these words or read this manuscript, because the veil will be rent from top to bottom, and there is nothing hidden that will not be revealed to you.
“Go in peace” (p 190).
Yes. Vaya con Dios, and may all your dreams turn into sweet successes and your heart be full with love and joy each moment of each day.
For that is all anyone can ever ask out of life.
Keep reading and smiling…
CG FEWSTON has been a Visiting Fellow at Hong Kong’s CityU, and a Visiting Scholar at the American Academy in Rome (Italy). He has a B.A. in English, an M.Ed. in Higher Education Leadership (honors), an M.A. in Literature (honors), and an M.F.A. in Creative Writing & Fiction. He was born in Texas in 1979 and now lives in Hong Kong.
He’s the author of several short stories and novels. His works include A Father‘s Son (2005), The New America: A Collection (2007), Vanity of Vanities (2011), A Time to Love in Tehran (2015), and forthcoming: Conquergood & the Center of the Intelligible Mystery of Being; Little Hometown, America: A Look Back; and, The Endless Endeavor of Excellence.
You can read more about the author on Facebook @ cg.fewston – where he has 320,000+ followers