Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Love - the Prologue of 'The Alchemist'

In my first post about love, Love (lost), I shared with you the insight that the love we feel for someone, the beauty we see in them, is our own creation: it is all in our head. It is a bit like the famous zen koan: if a tree falls in the forest and nobody hears it, does it make a sound? If a woman enters the room and nobody gives her a second glance, is she beautiful? Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.
Besides finding our love beautiful, we are linked to our love by the way our love makes us feel about ourselves. We see in our love qualities that we admire, qualities that thrill us, qualities that we possess also perhaps, but to a lesser degree; or that we would like to possess. Our love has a way of making us feel that we too possess these qualities. Being with our love is, in a way, the next best thing we can do to actually being our love. (See this post for a technique about imagining being our love). So being in love has a component of ‘reflected glory’ in it, which makes us feel good about ourselves.
‘Beauty is truth’s smile when she beholds her own face in a perfect mirror’ said Rabindranath Tagore. Perhaps this quote was the inspiration for Paulo Coelho’s prologue to ‘The Alchemist’.

The Alchemist picked up a book that someone in the caravan had brought. Leafing through the pages, he found a story about Narcissus. The Alchemist knew the legend of Narcissus, a youth who daily knelt beside a lake to contemplate his own beauty. He was so fascinated by himself that, one morning, he fell into the lake and drowned. At the spot where he fell, a flower was born, which was called the narcissus.
But this was not how the author of the book ended the story. He said that when Narcissus died, the Goddesses of the Forest appeared and found the lake, which had been fresh water, transformed into a lake of salty tears.
"Why do you weep?" the Goddesses asked.
"I weep for Narcissus," the lake replied.
"Ah, it is no surprise that you weep for Narcissus," they said, "for though we always pursued him in the forest, you alone could contemplate his beauty close at hand."
"But..... was Narcissus beautiful?" the lake asked.
"Who better than you to know that?" the Goddesses said in wonder, "After all, it was by your banks that he knelt each day to contemplate himself!"
The lake was silent for some time. Finally it said:
"I weep for Narcissus, but I never noticed that Narcissus was beautiful. I weep because, each time he knelt beside my banks, I could see, in the depths of his eyes, my own beauty reflected."

"What a lovely story," the Alchemist thought.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

This prologue is a fairly close adaptation of Oscar Wilde's Prose-Poem "The Disciple."

Discover The Tale of Genji, the 11th Century classic of Japan (click image)

Discover The Tale of Genji, the 11th Century classic of Japan (click image)
Kiyomizudera Temple has a large veranda looking out over Kyoto and beyond