Despite the impersonal relationship of Cohelo's characters, I revel in the spiritual lessons he portrays. The Alchemist is far from my favorite book, but the entire story harps on the presence of omens in life to guide us toward finding our own treasure, fulfilling our personal legend. Like many of us, the protagonist, Santiago, desires something more than the stability he's found as a Shepard. Despite the fears of losing everything, Santiago leaves behind the comfort of his established reality for the dream of discovering the treasure he's dreamed of. As he travels through Northern Africa in pursuit of the desired treasure, he is guided by the presence of omens. Void of any suspense or a trace of a climax, Cohelo never left writhing to read on, but he did succeed in inspiring me to inspect my own life for omens.
A few weeks ago I went for a long run along the Embarcadero, in need of some running to clear my head and help me think. As I raced to the edge of a pier, I turned around to admire the city. The Christmas lights had just been strung around the frame of several buildings. I stood there, mesmerized by the glittering lights, illuminating the city where I'd woven my own networks, built friendships and carved out my niche. Faced with a life-changing decision, I stood there and asked for a sign to tell me what to do. I inspected the night sky, searching for a star to glimmer; I listed for a siren to call; I waited to feel the wind swoop behind me and tug at my hair.
But my senses were void of the indications I sought.
I sometimes make poor decisions, but I have stomach that's the first to remind me. Whenever I do something that I know is not right or make a poor choice, a sinking feeling looms in the pit of my stomach. Prior to that night, I had the nervous feeling of the unknown: I didn't know what to do. And I waited on that pier for an omen to guide me, and to signal that I should go one way or the other, but as I stood there, I didn't witness an omen. I turned to head home, chilled by the cool, night air as my sweat began to dry. And when I arrived home and showered, suddenly that sensation of nerves had dissipated and I felt comfortable, and at ease. Though not immediately apparent, it was only after finishing The Alchemist that I knew I had found my omen.
And the choice? That I will reveal a little later...