Keeping the Faith: The Wisdom of Simplicity

In Paulo Coelho’s brilliant little book, The Alchemist, the author tells of a young lad sent by his father to a wise man to discover the secret of happiness.

The wise man lived in a magnificent, faraway castle complete with sweet music, beautiful artwork, delicious food, and sprawling gardens. It was a wonder of the world.

After a long journey to the castle and waiting for hours to speak to the sage, the boy finally gained an audience. The wise man listened to the boy’s explanation for his visit, then answered, “I do not have time to reveal the secret of happiness to you.” Instead, he handed the boy a teaspoon with two tiny drops of oil in it, and instructed him to wander around the castle for two hours without spilling the oil.

The lad did as instructed, carefully climbing the high stairwells and creeping down the long hallways of the palace, his eyes always fixed on the teaspoon. When he returned to the wise man, he was asked, “Did you see my Persian tapestries, my extravagant gardens, my parchments in the library?” Embarrassed, the boy replied that he had not. He had been focused solely on the drops of oil in the spoon....

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