The secret of happiness

I am a huge fan of author Paulo Coelho. The way he writes stories and even the type of stories he narrates is very similar to the type of stories I grew up listening to. I hope to share some of those stories someday. Stories are perhaps among the top factors that made me who I am today. For example, long before I knew what friendship, loyalty, courage, kindness, or forgiveness meant I learned it from stories or proverbs, which my family is very fond of. I can only hope that I can give that same kind of richness I got in my childhood to my own children one day inshaAllah.

The story below I read on Paulo Coelho’s blog, which has many more beautiful stories. This particular story struck a chord with me, because I have experienced it and seen people I know go through it. One of the major reasons I don’t have a liking for social networks like Facebook is for this reason. In the age of Facebook, what has happened at least in my experience is that we have turned the beautiful experiences of our journeys into projects of picture documenting. In the past, whenever I traveled to some place or had a new experience I had the mindset of being in wonder, appreciation, awe and of thankfulness. I would be in the moment of stillness and peace with just myself and my surroundings. Everything else was far away and I’d really feel the experience that I was going through.
Sure I may have taken a picture or two to capture the moment, but that was never the purpose, goal, or center of the experience.

What I have noticed occur over time has been scary. The experience has become a project to experience for the purpose of documentation. For example, coming across a wonder of nature like a spectacular scene of landscape, before would humble me into silence. I’d be in awe and feel nature. I’d take it all in. The transformation that has happened to me in the age of Facebook is that my camera pops out and I grab the buddy next to me to snap a photo. Everyone else is also snapping away to capture moments, which should be felt in the heart and really experienced in that moment. I was so shocked by this behavior in my last trip that I deleted all my albums on Facebook and decided I won’t be in the crazy business of showing off my experiences to an audience, rather I want that mindset back where I am one with nature again and everything around me is consumed inside of me. It really is a beautiful feeling to have, which I had lost. I am not saying I am against picture taking, I think it is important to capture experiences to relive again one day through pictures. It’s just I don’t like who I have become in the age of sharing moments rather than really experiencing those beautiful moments.

I promise I had planned to just post the story from Paulo Coelho, but once I start writing it’s difficult for me to be brief. This story has an important message, which I try to remind myself often. Life is just moments and one day it will all vanish. We tend to be so caught up and focused about getting things done and on work that we forget to smell the roses as the saying goes.

Here is the story:
Story taken from my book “The Alchemist”, one of the Top 20 Bestselling Books from all times

A merchant sent his son to learn the Secret of Happiness from the wisest of men. The young man wandered through the desert for forty days until he reached a beautiful castle at the top of a mountain. There lived the sage that the young man was looking for.

However, instead of finding a holy man, our hero entered a room and saw a great deal of activity; merchants coming and going, people chatting in the corners, a small orchestra playing sweet melodies, and there was a table laden with the most delectable dishes of that part of the world.

The wise man talked to everybody, and the young man had to wait for two hours until it was time for his audience.

With considerable patience, the Sage listened attentively to the reason for the boy’s visit, but told him that at that moment he did not have the time to explain to him the Secret of Happiness.

He suggested that the young man take a stroll around his palace and come back in two hours’ time.

“However, I want to ask you a favor,” he added, handling the boy a teaspoon, in which he poured two drops of oil. “While you walk, carry this spoon and don’t let the oil spill.”

The young man began to climb up and down the palace staircases, always keeping his eyes fixed on the spoon. At the end of two hours he returned to the presence of the wise man.

“So,” asked the sage, “did you see the Persian tapestries hanging in my dining room? Did you see the garden that the Master of Gardeners took ten years to create? Did you notice the beautiful parchments in my library?”

Embarrassed, the young man confessed that he had seen nothing. His only concern was not to spill the drops of oil that the wise man had entrusted to him.

“So, go back and see the wonders of my world,” said the wise man. “You can’t trust a man if you don’t know his house.”

Now more at ease, the young man took the spoon and strolled again through the palace, this time paying attention to all the works of art that hung from the ceiling and walls. He saw the gardens, the mountains all around the palace, the delicacy of the flowers, the taste with which each work of art was placed in its niche. Returning to the sage, he reported in detail all that he had seen.

“But where are the two drops of oil that I entrusted to you?” asked the sage.

Looking down at the spoon, the young man realized that he had spilled the oil.

“Well, that is the only advice I have to give you,” said the sage of sages. “The Secret of Happiness lies in looking at all the wonders of the world and never forgetting the two drops of oil in the spoon.”

from the book “The Alchemist”


2 Responses to The secret of happiness

  1. Thank you for introducing me to Paulo Coelho. I thoroughly enjoyed reading through this post. 🙂

    • Guulo says:

      That is awesome Maryanne:). I love his books and I think you will too if you enjoyed this post. The alchemist and the devil and miss prym to name just two, are amazing books by the author you can start reading and you won’t be disappointed. Take care:)

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