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Coelho’s true path to wisdom

PauloCoelhoThe Pilgrimage

Finding Paulo Coelho’s The Pilgrimage, in the local Oxfam shop, I bought it thinking I had already read it. I hadn’t. It’s marvelous; and packed full of wisdom that makes this a reference book to keep on your shelf.

True path to wisdom

One of the nuggets I thought would come up again is the advice Coelho is given by his guide who was called Petrus in the book.

“The true path to wisdom can be identified by three things,” said Petrus. “First, it must involve agape, and I’ll tell you more about this later; second, it has to have practical application in your life.  Otherwise, wisdom becomes a useless thing and deteriorates like a sword that is never used. “

“And finally, it has to be a path that can be followed by anyone.  Like the road you are walking now, the Road to Santiago.”

Writing to remember

I don’t have a good verbal memory so I like to write about things and link them to similar ideas.  That way, I’ll be able to recall the idea whenever I want to.  My method satisfies step 2, I suppose!  Blogging is practical.

Blogging also helps with step 3.  Anyone with a computer and internet connection and some literacy or a camera can blog.  About half the world, I suppose.  It’s not a protected activity, anyway.

But agape?  I write for a better understanding.  Yes, that is agape.  And I write to share. Not always well, but I try to be intelligible.

I worry though that I will reduce the ideas of Paolo Coelho to something prosaic and unworthy.  For what it is worth, these are two ideas from other domains that I immediately wanted to compare with Paolo Coelho’s ideas about the path to wisdom.

Happiness and chaos/complexity theory

Losada modeled happiness in a butterfly shaped space.   Contrary to views presented in the popular press, happiness isn’t  a consistently cheery mood.  It is appropriate reaction to events. We feel sad at sad times and happy at happy times but get stuck nowhere.

Ratio of positive to negative events

Losada uses three variables to model the space.  The ratio of positive to negative in our environment must range from 3:1 to 11:1.  3:1 is a lot.  For every jarring event, we need three good ones to recover.  5:1 is optimal.  Sometimes we struggle to maintain that ratio and the struggle captures our focus.  In these distressing times, we tend to exaggerate the bad by excluding what is good.  The good gets buried and we are in danger of slipping so far down the ratio we might never recover our composure.  Simply, we have to make a special effort to celebrate what is good in the situation to compensate our tendency to repeat the bad over and over again like a broken gramophone, presumably in the fear that if we don’t, it will bite us.  I take that to be agape.  The search for the good.

Other vs self

The second variable that Losada used was discussion of the outside world.  When we balance discussion of the world outside our immediate circle and the needs of our circle almost our mood swings throughout the spectrum.  We are less likely to see everything as all good or all bad.

To give you an example, I sometimes cheer myself up with an elaborate day dream of what I am going to do.  When I go out into the world, I am living my dream.  But people around me don’t see me that way.  It’s like meeting a bucket of cold water!  My immediate reaction is to feel small.  A better reaction is to build up the dream to include them too.  When my dream is not situated in the harsh realities of the world, other people will stop me, and more importantly my own sense of shock will stop myself.  And then I am unhappy because nothing works!!

Inquiry vs Advocacy

The third variable that Losada used is a balance of inquiry and advocacy.  At first sight, this is not the same as the criteria of universality, inclusion and humility that Coelho espouses, but when I put it like that, you possibly see the similarity.

Any way, I was struck by the similarity of ideas coming from different traditions and had to stop to test how far the ideas ran in parallel.

Social media

The second notion that struck me is that social media is successful because it also follows these principles.

Social media is a courteous world.   Sure it has its spammers and robots and flamers but the general ethos is to be helpful.    We simply get more done by celebrating what we can do together.

Social media is a practical world.  I watch my rankings not out of vanity, though of course there is an element of vanity too.  I watch my ranking and Google Analytics to help me find people who share my interests.   “5 best way” articles are very popular and that is partly a search for practicality ~ but they belong in the point below.  I write on blogs because they keep me grounded in reality (or at least more so than if I didn’t).

Social media is an inclusive world.  Through teaching, I know that a major difference between Gen Y and earlier generations is that digital natives test information in their own lives and absorb it or not when they find it useful.  When we can communicate useful  (not popular)  information, we see the response.  Of course, popular also wins.   Of course, tawdry also wins.  Not everything useful is deep or good.

I know we can take the analogy too far and the poetic description is far better than the stilted prose of a former academic.  I just wanted to test whether the three criteria ~ agape, practicality and openness ~ worked in other areas of my life.

Do they work for you?

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Published in POSITIVE PSYCHOLOGY, WELLBEING & POETRY

2 Comments

  1. cindy cindy

    perhaps the choice of the term ‘social media’ could be more inclusive and be something such as: avenue for gathering of right minds? The reason I disagreed with the, these days common usage, of everything ‘social media’is: I think we left out meeting places such as AA, scouts and girl guides, volunteer works etc. where people meet and exchange ideas, or receive encouragement etc. These are NOT bla, bla, bla MEDIA, but is social anyway.

    I am active in both online and off-line meeting places. What I find the differece between these two venuse is: onlline online media allows me the time to contemplate and response (if I wish and think my comments are welcomed), whereas physical social tend to be more spontaneous.

    I like the 2nd step best — still sometime strange things happend in our life in mysterious ways. Take my knowledge of the Chinese langauge (mandarin and mother tongue). 25 years after I graudated from high school I was employed as a bilingual technical instructor … giving training, in Mandarin, to engineers from China!! It was a bit RUSTY and blunt at first, but soon the skills and knowledge of the language shine again. IF I waited till the time I needed the skills of Mandarin before I go learn it, I would not have been employed. So ???

  2. Yes I agree. The three principles are relevant to all gatherings.

    And I believe Coelho would agree with you. We learn a lot from teaching. And knowledge has no purpose unless it is used for and with people.

    What are you doing now?

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