Sometimes, literature can engage our mind, instruct our soul, and inspire us to action. It does not require we treat the writing as some sort of scripture, nor does it mean we even agree with all of it. However, if it moves me, I enjoy sharing it.
Such is the case with Paulo Coelho’s novel, The Fifth Mountain, which is about the imaginary time Elijah the prophet of Israel spent in exile. I shared some of the powerful message last night. Briefly, this evening, I will add a few thoughts from some of the book. I examined the question that Elijah the prophet raised to God when considering all he and the people he had settled amongst suffered: “What is the meaning of thy struggle?” Is this all there is? Is the suffering of life worth it; is struggling to be good, to be anything, worth it for such a seemingly brief, hard life?
Here is one beautiful use of Ego. When it brings such questions to mind and soul, we have to dig deep to see what we are really made of. Many times we blame others for our struggles, or we conclude that we’re worthless as a human or deficient in some way. Those are good things to think about, but we dare not get stuck there.
On the same page, same passage I referred to last night from The Fifth Mountain, Elijah says, “The man who did not know how to answer this question would resign himself…Cowards never allow their hearts to blaze with this fire; all they desire is for the changed situation to quickly return to what it was before, so they can go on living their lives and thinking in their customary way” (Coelho 204).What is the Ego answer to asking about the value of suffering and life? Resign self to plod ahead in relatively meaningless existence with the hope that things might at least get back to what they were. It’s too risky to really discover anything deeper.
There’s the danger: not recognizing Heart whispering, maybe shouting, in our soul. If one gets stuck in these Ego-generated questions, things get pretty damn bleak. These dichotomous possibilities occur as Coelho explores them in Elijah’s evaluation, and Elijah comes to this judgment about facing what I call Ego, a dynamic within us that would cause us to be fatalistic: the cowards resign self. However, those who are brave “set afire that which was old, and, even at the cost of great internal suffering, abandon everything, including God, and continue onward” (Coelho 204). Those who hear Heart won’t rest until they know who they are.
They drive to discover, to be the “one who sought a meaning to existence, feeling that God [life, Universe, etc.] had been unjust, would challenge his own destiny. It was at this moment that fire of a different type descended from the heavens…the kind that tears down ancient walls and imparts to each human being his true possibilities” (Coelho 204). When that happens, Spirit, God, if you wish, allows that and “smiles contentedly, for it was this that He desired, that each person take into his hands the responsibility for his own life. For, in the final analysis, He had given His children the greatest of all gifts: the capacity to choose and determine their acts” (Coelho 204). We learn who we are, and we create our fate.
If we listen to our Heart, that direct piece of Spirit in us, we come to question all we have gone through and our relationship, part, and suffering in all, and we come “to the abyss of the unavoidable” (Coelho 205) so that we can see that we “must choose — and not accept — [our] fate” (Coelho 205). How do we choose? What if we choose wrong? What should we choose?
In one more article, I will address the harmony of Coelho’s and my philosophy through The Fifth Mountain. In the meantime, we each have Heart. We each have Ego, too, and we will be brought to points of reckoning throughout life. Then, we choose: Ego or Heart; accept fate or create fate; resign to doom or rise to discover.
These times are not trivial, and to someone in the throes of such moments, encouragement to choose Heart may sound trite. It is by no means that; choosing Heart will mean taking responsibility for Self, for discovering and living personal truth, no matter the cost. And that is not a trivial, trifling, or easy way out. It is, however, the way of freedom, blessing, fulfillment, significance, understanding, light, love, and peace.
Blessings until tomorrow!
All quotes from my version of The Fifth Mountain: Coelho, Paulo. The Fifth Mountain. Harper Collins, 1999 (Reissued 2009).
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Questions to consider:
How many times have you asked yourself or simply thought about the following questions?
Who am I, really?
What is my truth?
How do my actions reveal what I really feel and believe?
What would I do with my life if I could do anything?
What is my passion?
Why am I here?
How can I discover answers to any of these questions?
If you have considered any of these questions, I hope that my experiences and writing will give you some guidance. Please read my blog and comment and share your thoughts. I would love to hear from you!