The topic of favorite books came up. Whenever that happens, I think of the Old Man and the Sea.
My dad was a fisherman, charter boat captain, and SCUBA instructor, and, from what I’ve heard, he was a pretty straightforward guy. He got a gold stud in his ear to pay for his funeral if he drowned after a year on fishing boats, his favorite saying was “Every good party starts with a shower,” and the only book he owned was a dog-eared copy of the Old Man and the Sea. I think that someone like him loving that book probably says a lot about my father, and it’s a tribute to Hemingway’s skill.
It’s not my favorite book. I’m not ready for it yet. I could say something schmarmy like Proverbs or Ecclesiastes, and I do have a fondness for several books from the Bible, but it’s a workman’s love, a reference. I might as well tell you I loved my flight manuals when I was a pilot – I knew where things were, checked them when I needed to know how something worked, and they probably saved my life.
But when I see a copy of The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho, I smile like someone coming home. I’ve owned and given away more copies of that book than any other. I can tell the story of Narcissus from memory, I left my first flock of sheep behind when I was 17, I polished glass wherever I went, and I am still trying to see through the Soul of the World and become the wind. As I get older, I become less the Boy and more the Alchemist, but my love for the story hasn’t changed.
One day, when I’ve found my treasure, when I’ve helped enough people find theirs, when I’ve seen and been and touched, tasted, felt, heard, and smelled, learned and taught, written and sung, and laughed - so very much laughter - I’ll drag myself into a rowboat and find my fish; a child will see the bones of my life and wonder; I’ll slip into a fevered slumber, defeated but triumphant, and dream of lions.
But first, I’m going to become the wind.