Paulo Coelho on Taking Risks and Embracing Life’s Magic Moments

“You have to take risks,” Brazilian lyricist and novelist Paulo Coelho (August 24, 1947-present) writes through a character in the novel, By The River Piedra I Sat Down and Wept (1994). “We will only understand the miracle of life fully when we allow the unexpected to happen.”

A deeply spiritual, poignant account of an adolescent romance rekindled after years of separation, By The River Piedra I Sat Down & Wept explores love’s redeeming power, and the struggle to find answers to some of life’s biggest questions.

While Coelho is best known for his novel The Alchemist (1988), an allegorical story about one man’s search for meaning that has sold more than 35 million copies and is the most translated book in the world by a living author, By The River Piedra I Sat Down & Wept is an equally beautiful read that encourages readers to see the remarkable in the ordinary and to find a deeper, richer meaning to life’s trials.

The passage below is a beautiful reminder:

“You have to take risks, he said. We will only understand the miracle of life fully when we allow the unexpected to happen.

Every day, God gives us the sun – and also one moment in which we have the ability to change everything that makes us unhappy. Every day, we try to pretend that we haven’t perceived that moment, that it doesn’t exist – that today is the same as yesterday and will be the same as tomorrow. But if people really pay attention to their everyday lives, they will discover that magic moment. It may arrive in the instant when we are doing something mundane, like putting our frontdoor key in the lock; it may lie hidden in the quiet that follows the lunch hour or in the thousand and one things that all seem the same to us. But that moment exists – a moment when all the power of the stars becomes a part of us and enables us to perform miracles.

Joy is sometimes a blessing but is often a conquest. Our magic moment helps us to change and sends us off in search of our dreams. Yes, we are going to suffer, we will have difficult times, and we will experience many disappointments – but all of this is transitory; it leaves no permanent mark. And one day we will look back with pride and faith at the journey we have taken.

Pitiful is the person who is afraid of taking risks. Perhaps this person will never be disappointed or disillusioned; perhaps she won’t suffer the way people do when they have a dream to follow. But when that person looks back – and at some point everyone looks back – she will hear her heart saying, ‘What have you done with the miracles that God planted in your days? What have you done with the talents God bestowed on you? You buried yourself in a cave because you were fearful of losing those talents. So this is your heritage: the certainty that you wasted your life.’

Pitiful are the people who must realize this. Because when they are finally able to believe in miracles, their life’s magic moments will have already passed them by.”

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