Thursday, August 06, 2009

Reflections: By The River Piedra I Sat Down and Wept

According to legend, the river Piedra was so cold and frigid that anything that fell into it - leaves, stones, feathers...all turned to stone. Kind of a black-hole, into which one could hurl anything that they wanted to purge and exorcise out of them. Over the banks sits a woman, furiously writing down her life's story to be flung into the river; to forget, to heal, to extinguish her flaming agony. The book contains her story.

I expected a dramatic tale to unfold from the woman in this book, I expected this book to touch me deep as the woman wept. But what to me would have been a pleasant surprise, a touching gesture, and a means for a happy ending, was of total shock and sorrow to the woman. And I wanted to tell the woman - "You're overreacting, pull yourself together!" If Coelho had read my thoughts as I read through the book, he would have been completely exasperated at my reaction :).

In all honesty, I'm a little too practical and rigid to let myself get lost in Coelho's stories. My fault is I cannot stop asking questions, stop searching for meaning, or stop pondering for explanations. This is perhaps why his book, "The Alchemist" didn't appeal to me much.

It took sometime for me to turn the book over in my thoughts, and I understood what Coelho was trying to convey. The book was meant for people like me - uptight in their thoughts. It teaches us to break down rules, to stop asking questions, to stop looking for explanations and to just give freedom to the spirit inside of us. Let the spirit guide us to our paths, to our calling and have complete faith in a higher authority. It's about being a Romanticist in life, to connect with the world, to speak to it's soul and to appreciate the beauty of it all. Coelho's books teach me to be a child again, and to be a complete Romanticist who would take their spirit for an adventure. I never understood why mountain hikers struggled so much and lost so much just to get to the peak... all they would see is a view, a nice one maybe, but you can see that on a postcard or a video. Coelho chides people like me in this book, using this very same example. There's much more for the spirit to feast on than merely a view, he says.

It's very interesting that throughout the book, the woman is conflicted with a battle between her heart and mind, sometimes between her heart and a phantom representing the society, and preconditioned rules. Coelho urges us to take risks, to just let go of ourselves, and to break down barriers we create for ourselves. Coelho's stamp of philosophy comes across in the book as he asserts that the Universe will conspire to make our dreams come true, if and only if, we had faith in them and listened to our heart, quietened our mind and neglected society.

In addition to this main theme, the book explores how a man and a woman in love can come together to create their own calling in life. I believe that each of us have our own destiny and calling in life. When we are single, we are on our own Path, our own Lane. But when we find a companion, the most crucial aspect is deciding how to merge our Lanes, find a common Path, and be true to both our callings. Coelho demonstrates how Faith plays a huge role in such decisions.

Listening to my heart, letting my spirit fly free and to have implicit faith in the Universe - are things I still cannot bring myself to do, although the thoughts are appealing. My mind doesn't shut up, it doesn't stop being skeptical and my heart often loses the battle. But I will surely remember this book, when the time comes when my mind can do nothing more, and all that is left is to garner faith, pure faith from my heart, and just bank on it's clarity.


priti said...

Beautiful post Neeraja....With Coelho...I haven't gone beyond "The Alchemist"....I thought it was a pretty good book when I read it....3-4 yrs back when I was ready to take on the whole world with enthusiasm and optimism...Experiences and difficulties...esp failures in life...makes you very strong but in addition makes you question everything that is happening around you...I guess the skepticism...uptightness and everything that you've described above (which I completely can relate to) is a defense mechanism that our mind puts up to protect our heart from being hurt...But if you don't risk your heart once in a while you may never feel things that may blow away both your heart and mind....I will try getting my hands on this book. I still haven't recovered from the blogger's block ;)....You def'ly do inspire me to write every time I visit your blog..Hopefully soon :)

Neeraja said...

Thanks, Priti :). I agree with you... sometimes our defenses are too strong, too protective that it constrains us from experiencing a lot more. A little abandonment and optimism never hurts. I also remember a post I read of yours on applying multiresoultion analysis to explain the balance of heart and mind within each "layer" of us. And I completely agree with such an analysis... there has to be a balance between the two, and the argument between the heart and mind is a sign of rational evolution...which is why I'm probably too skeptical to be a complete romantic and listen to my heart :)

And yes, I'm eagerly waiting for you to update your blog with all your wonderful thoughts :)