In its broadest sense, alchemy is the process of transforming a common substance or quality into a valuable one, for example, the creation of precious gold from base lead or, as in the case of The Alchemist, the realization of one’s destiny. Paulo Coelho defines alchemy as “penetrating to the soul of the world, and discovering the treasure that has been reserved for you.”
In realizing your personal legend or reason for being, you undergo the alchemy of self-transformation, an internal process influenced by external realities but remaining nonetheless your unique dream. Coelho maintains, “People are afraid to pursue their most important dreams, because they feel that they don’t deserve them, or that they’ll be unable to achieve them.” However, he adds, “When you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you achieve it.” And Coelho is not referring to the latest material fad, like the iPhone 6. Rather he is teaching us about our inner truth or spiritual treasure, in other words, what makes us who we are and drives us to be the person we aspire to be. As he says, “To realize one’s destiny is a person’s only real obligation.”
Our special guest for today’s LCC Reads assembly embodies the ideals Coelho captures in The Alchemist. Patrick Watson ’97, an alumnus of our school and my former student, learned early in his life his reason for being. As a young man, he aspired to be a professional musician, not the kind of livelihood parents tend to support enthusiastically. However, in his single-minded pursuit of his dream, Mr. Watson has not only succeeded but also excelled. His personal legend is to create music, and, unlike many who did not persevere and gave up on their dream, he was not afraid to pursue his most important dream and continues to remain true to his ideals.
Likewise, In a collective way, over the past ten years, the LCC Reads Committee has realized its personal legend: to promote the value and joy of reading. Reading and self-reflection, along with positive action, allow us to understand our place in the world and our true aspirations. As American author Stephen King writes, “Books are a uniquely portable magic.” Reading is transformative; it can change you and your thinking; it turns base metal into gold.
Brian Moore – International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme Coordinator & English Department Head