Thursday, July 11, 2013

The Aleph

Every now and then a book comes along your way and leaves a lasting impression. I am not an avid reader, but I try to make time to read because it is one of those good nourishing items to feed the soul. Books can be of all different kinds, and not every book you read has to be inspirational, or uplifting. Sometimes a book just gives you a good laugh, whereas other times, it gets you into another world that beyond reality, and then there are those that leave you warm and fuzzy. I also believe that books that come across your path regardless of their content come to you at the right time in your life. It’s exactly what you needed at that moment. For me it was Paulo Coelho’s book Aleph.

His first book was The Alchemist which I loved. And I will admit that when I started to follow his books, I found the same theme over and over again – so I let him go for a while. It was always the same message of self-discovery, following your path, living your dreams, etc. But someone recommended Aleph to me, and I said, ok, let me read it.

It was exactly what I needed. It is books that just like The Alchemist, no matter how many times I read it; I will always learn something new from it. What fascinated more about this book – it was a biographical account of his life till today but done in a fictional way. I love traveling and I liked the idea of reading someone elses’ perspective on their travels – and more specifically making their travel journeys meaningful and purposeful – being open to new experiences on their travels regardless of how mundane it may be. Our travels could be our job – traveling for work can get burdensome and exhausting and can take a toll on us – and the character in this book experiences some of those sentiments. Seeing how he overcomes it, and makes meaning of his travels resonated with me.

Aleph is the first word in the Hebrew Alphabet. It has many meanings – symbolically- ranging from Oneness in Unity to the link between the Inner and Outer Realm of God to signifying strength, the leader. (

So getting into this book I was a little apprehensive because I did not know what to expect – whether it would be a lesson on theology, on Judaism, etc. But it was the opposite. It was his spiritual journey. So many of us at times feel stagnant on our spiritual path, and we need a boost, we need something that can help us get unstuck. In this book, he writes in the first person about him being a famous writer, and feel that stuckness. And he turns to “J” his mentor, for guidance. In doing that, he comes across an article about the Chinese Bamboo. The concept that such a tiny green shoot could shoot up in five years into such a giant thing is the catalyst that gets him moving on his journey. And he decides to take a journey on the Trans-Siberian railroad, and unexpectedly a woman named Hilal tells him that she is there to accompany him on this journey.

For me, it represented the journey of one man’s quest for inner peace – and his metamorphosis. It was about undoing the past, understanding one’s past in order to make peace with the present. It was about learning to be in the present despite all our insecurities, emotions, paranoia, vices, gifts, talents. It was a journey in forgiveness, in love, and being unafraid of confronting the challenges in life. One can’t know God in isolation – or understand God’s wisdom/love. The only way one can begin to understand God is by actively being in the present with our relationships and our lives. And in order to be actively present, one needs to come to terms with the past – not live in the past, but accept it and move on. This quote stood out to me:

“We can never wound the soul, just as we can never wound, God, but we can become imprisoned by our memories, and that makes our lives wretched even when we have everything we need in order to be happy. If only we could be entirely here, as if we had just woken up on planet Earth and found ourselves inside a golden temple, but can’t.”

This is a great link to another person’s understanding of The Aleph.

He ends the book with this quote: “Only two things can reveal life’s greatest secrets: Suffering and Love.” I ask you to do a journaling prompt with this quote and see what comes up. What has suffering taught me about myself? What has love given me? Where would I be without the two?

Happy Journaling!

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