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Authors: Paulo Coelho,Margaret Jull Costa

Manuscript Found in Accra (9 page)

BOOK: Manuscript Found in Accra
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And he answered:

Elegance tends to be mistaken for superficiality and mere appearance. Nothing could be further from the truth; some words are elegant, some can wound and destroy, but all are written with the same letters. Flowers are elegant, even when hidden among the grasses in a meadow. The gazelle when it runs is elegant, even when it is fleeing from a lion.

Elegance is not an outer quality, but a part of the soul that is visible to others.

And even when passions run high, elegance does not allow the real ties binding two people to be broken.

Elegance lies not in the clothes we wear, but in the way we wear them.

It isn’t in the way we wield a sword, but in the dialogue we hold that could avoid a war.

Elegance is achieved when, having discarded all superfluous things, we discover simplicity and concentration. The simpler the pose, the better; the more sober, the more beautiful.

And what is simplicity? It is the coming together of the true values of life.

Snow is pretty because it has only one color.

The sea is pretty because it appears to be a flat plane.

The desert is beautiful because it seems to consist only of sand and rocks.

However, when we look more closely at each of these things, we discover how profound and complete they are, and recognize their qualities.

The simplest things in life are the most extraordinary. Let them reveal themselves.

Consider the lilies of the field and how they grow; they neither toil nor spin. And yet even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.

The nearer the heart comes to simplicity, the more capable it is of loving freely and without fear. The more fearlessly it loves, the more capable it is of revealing elegance in its every gesture.

Elegance is
not a matter of good taste. Every culture has its own idea of beauty, which is often completely different from ours.

But every tribe, every people, has values that they associate with elegance: hospitality, respect, good manners.

Arrogance attracts hatred and envy. Elegance arouses respect and Love.

Arrogance causes us to humiliate our fellow man or woman. Elegance teaches us to walk in the light.

Arrogance complicates words, because it believes that intelligence is for only the chosen few. Elegance transforms complex thoughts into something that everyone can understand.

When we are walking our chosen path, we walk elegantly, emanating light.

Our steps are firm, our gaze keen, our movements beautiful. And even at the most difficult moments, our adversaries can see no signs of weakness, because our elegance protects us.

Elegance is accepted and admired because it makes no effort to be elegant.

Only Love gives form to what, once, we could not even dream of.

And only elegance allows that form to be made manifest.

 

And a man who always woke up early to take his flocks to the pastures around the city said:

“You have studied in order to be able to speak these beautiful words, but we have to work to support our families.”

 

And he answered:

Beautiful words are spoken by poets. And one day, someone will write:

I fell asleep and dreamed that life was only Happiness
.

I woke and discovered that life was Duty
.

I did my Duty and discovered that life was Happiness
.

Work is the manifestation of Love that binds people together. Through it, we discover that we are incapable of living without other people, and that they need us just as much.

There are two types of work.

The first is the work we do because we have to in order to earn our daily bread. In that case, people are
merely selling their time, not realizing that they can never buy it back.

They spend their entire existence dreaming of the day when they can finally rest. When that day comes, they will be too old to enjoy everything life has to offer. Such people never take responsibility for their actions. They say: “I have no choice.”

However, there is another type of work, which people also do in order to earn their daily bread, but in which they try to fill each minute with dedication and love for others.

This second type of work we call the Offering. For example, two people might be cooking the same meal and using exactly the same ingredients, but one is pouring Love into what he does and the other is merely trying to fill his belly. The result will be completely different, even though Love is not something that can be seen or weighed.

The person making the Offering is always rewarded. The more he shares out his affection, the more his affection grows.

When the Divine Energy set the Universe in motion, all the planets and stars, all the seas and forests, all the valleys and mountains were given the chance to take
part in the Creation. And the same thing happened with mankind.

Some said: “No, we don’t want to. We won’t be able to right wrongs or punish injustice.”

Others said: “With the sweat of my brow I will water the fields, and that will be my way of praising the Creator.”

Then the devil came and whispered in his honeyed tones: “You will have to carry that rock up to the top of the hill, and, when you get there, it will roll back down again to the bottom.”

And all those who believed in the devil said: “The only meaning in life is to repeat the same task over and over.”

And those who did not believe in the devil answered: “Then I will love the rock that I have to carry to the top of the mountain. That way, each minute by its side will be a minute spent closer to the one I love.”

The Offering is a wordless prayer. And like all prayers, it requires discipline—not the discipline of slavery, but of free choice.

There is no point in saying: “Fate was unfair to me. While others are following their dreams, here I am just doing my job and earning my living.”

Fate is never unfair to anyone. We are all free to love or hate what we do.

When we love, we find the same joy in our daily activity as do those who one day set off in search of their dreams.

No one can know the importance or greatness of what they do. Therein lies the mystery and the beauty of the Offering: it is the mission that was entrusted to us, and we, in turn, need to trust it.

The laborer can plant, but he can’t say to the sun: “Shine more brightly this morning.” He can’t say to the clouds: “Make it rain this evening.” He has to do what is necessary: plow the field, sow the seeds, and learn the gift of patience through contemplation.

He will experience moments of despair when he sees his harvest ruined and feels that all his work was in vain. The person who has set off in search of his dreams will also have moments when he regrets his decision, and then all he wants is to go back and find a job that will pay him enough to survive.

The following day, though, the heart of every worker or every adventurer will once again be filled with euphoria and confidence. Both will see the fruits of the Offering and will be glad.

Because both are singing the same song: the song of joy in the task that was entrusted to them.

The poet would die of hunger if there were no shepherds. The shepherd would die of sadness if he could not sing the words of the poet.

Through the Offering you are allowing others to love you. And you are teaching others to love through what you offer them.

 

And the same man who had asked about work asked another question:

“Why are some people luckier than others?”

 

And he answered:

Success does not come from having one’s work recognized by others. It is the fruit of a seed that you lovingly planted.

When harvest time arrives, you can say to yourself: “I succeeded.”

You succeeded in gaining respect for your work because you did not work only to survive, but to demonstrate your love for others.

You managed to finish what you began even though you did not foresee all the traps along the way. And when your enthusiasm waned because of the difficulties you encountered, you reached for discipline. And when discipline seemed about to disappear because you were tired, you used your moments of repose to think about what steps you needed to take in the future.

You were not paralyzed by the defeats that are inevitable in the lives of those who take risks. You didn’t sit agonizing over what you lost when you had an idea that didn’t work.

You didn’t stop when you experienced moments of glory, because you had not yet reached your goal.

And when you realized that you would have to ask for help, you did not feel humiliated. And when you learned that someone needed help, you showed them all that you had learned without fearing that you might be revealing secrets or being used by others.

To he who knocks, the door will open.

He who asks will receive.

He who consoles knows that he will be consoled.

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