Keep Dreaming (An Exquisite Excerpt from The Pilgrimage by Paulo Coelho)

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“We must never stop dreaming. Dreams provide nourishment for the soul, just as a meal does for the body. Many times in our lives, we see our dreams shattered and our desires frustrated, but we have to continue dreaming. If we don’t, our soul dies, and agape cannot reach it. A lot of blood has been shed in those fields out there; some of the cruelest battles of Spain’s war to expel the Moors were fought on them. Who was in the right or who knew the truth does not matter; what’s important is knowing that both sides were fighting the good fight.

The good fight is the one we fight because our heart asks it of us. In the heroic ages – at the time of the knights in armor – this was easy. There were lands to conquer and much to do. Today, though, the world has changed a lot, and the good fight has shifted from the battlefields to the fields within ourselves.

The good fight is the one that’s fought in the name of our dreams. When we’re young and our dreams first explode inside us with all of their force, we are courageous, but we haven’t learned how to fight. With great effort, we learn how to fight, but by then we no longer have the courage to go into combat. So we turn against ourselves and do battle within. We become our worst enemy. We say that our dreams were childish, or too difficult to realize, or the result of our not having known enough about life. We kill our dreams because we were afraid to fight the good fight.

[…]

The first symptom of the process of killing our dreams is the lack of time,” Petrus continues. “The busiest people I’ve known in my life always have time enough to do everything. Those who do nothing are always tired and pay no attention to the little amount of work they are required to do. They complain that the day is too short. The truth is, they are afraid to fight the good fight. The second symptom of the death of our dreams lies in our certainties. Because we don’t want to see life as a grand adventure, we begin to think of ourselves as wise and fair and correct in asking so little of life. We look beyond the walls of our day-to-day existence, and we hear the sound of lances breaking, we smell the dust and the sweat, and we see the great defeats and the fire in the eyes of the warriors. But we never see the delight, the immense delight in the hearts of those engages in the battle. For them, neither victory nor defeat is important; what’s important is only that they are fighting the good fight.

And, finally, the third symptom of the passing of our dreams is peace. Life becomes a Sunday afternoon; we ask for nothing grand, and we cease to demand anything more than we are willing to give. In that state, we think of ourselves as being mature; we put aside the fantasies of our youths and we seek personal and professional achievement. We are surprised when people our age say that they still want this or that out of life. But, really, deep down in our hearts, we know that what has happened is that we have renounced the battle for our dreams – we have refused to fight the good fight.

[…]

When we renounce our dreams and find peace,” he said after a while, “we go through a short period of tranquility. But the dead dreams begin to rot within us and to infect our entire being. We become cruel to those around us, and then we begin to direct this cruelty against ourselves. That’s when illnesses and psychoses arise. What we sought to avoid in combat – disappointment and defeat – came upon us because of our cowardice. And one day, the dead, spoiled dreams make it difficult to breathe, and we actually seek death. It’s death that frees us from our certainties, from our work, and from that terrible peace of our Sunday afternoons.”

The Pilgrimage, pages 57 to 59, by Paulo Coelho

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