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Monday, November 4, 2013

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Each man kills the thing he loves

A reader's question: Would you please explain the quote in the Alchemist about killing the thing you love.

Paulo Coelho, the author of The Alchemist, was actually quoting a line from Oscar Wilde's famous 1897 poem The Ballad of Reading Gaol. Coelho then proceeds to give his explanation of what Wilde's quote means. Following Coelho's and Wilde's long quotes, I share more thoughts about killing the thing you love.

Oscar Wilde said: 'Each man kills the thing he loves.' And it's true. The mere possibility of getting what we want fills the soul of the ordinary person with guilt. We look around at all those who have failed to get what they want and feel that we do not deserve to get what we want either. We forget about all the obstacles we overcame, all the suffering we endured, all the things we had to give up in order to get this far. I have known a lot of people who, when their personal calling was within their grasp, went on to commit a series of stupid mistakes and never reached their goal - when it was only a step away. This is the most dangerous of the obstacles because it has a kind of saintly aura about it. Renouncing joy and conquest. But if you believe yourself worthy of the thing you fought so hard to get, then you become an instrument of God, you help the Soul of the World, and you understand why you are here.
- Paulo Coelho, introduction to 2002 edition of The Alchemist

Yet each man kills the thing he loves.
By each let this be heard.
Some do it with a bitter look,
Some with a flattering word.
The coward does it with a kiss,
The brave man with a sword!
- Oscar Wilde - from The Ballad of Reading Gaol

Note that...
1. By "the thing he loves," Wilde and Coelho are not referring to a person, but rather to a person's aspirations  (in Coelho's words a "personal calling.") - like writing a best-selling book (in Coelho's case), or becoming wealthy or powerful, or ending hunger, or conquering disease.
2. The word "kill" is, of course, used figuratively - as in "Their performance in the last game killed the team's chance to play in the World Series."

How do we "kill" (destroy) the thing we love (our aspirations - our life path)?

1. A belief that we are unworthy (Coelho calls this "guilt.) - The following Marianne Williamson quote addresses this.

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate.
Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.
It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us.
We ask ourselves,
Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?
Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God.
Your playing small does not serve the world.
There is nothing enlightened about shrinking
so that other people won't feel insecure around you.
We are all meant to shine, as children do.
We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us.
It is not just in some of us; it is in everyone.
And as we let our own light shine,
we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same.
As we are liberated from our own fear,
our presence automatically liberates others.
- Marianne Williamson

2. Boredom ("is this all there is?")

Be thankful for what you have; you'll end up having more.
If you concentrate on what you don't have,
you will never, ever have enough.
- Oprah Winfrey

We can do anything we want to
if we stick to it long enough.
- Helen Keller

3. Distraction

As every divided kingdom falls,
so every mind divided between
many studies confounds and saps itself.
- Leonardo da Vinci

The Main Thing is to Keep
The Main Thing The Main Thing.
- Stephen Covey

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