Adonis Diaries

“As a flowing River” by Paulo Coelho (Book Review)

Posted on: March 28, 2009

“As a flowing River” by Paulo Coelho (Book Review, March 26, 2009)


Note:  I posted several articles with themes extracted from Coelho’s book “Comme un fleuve qui coule” and I decided to join the posts.  Sentences and paragraph between parentheses are of my own reflections and comments.

Paulo Coelho recounts that he had an important trip tomorrow, that he did what he had to do yesterday, and that in the morning he checked his mails and then realized that his afternoon is free.

He had nothing to do; he had taken care of everything.  He noticed that his jar of glue is empty, but he had no gluing task for the afternoon.  Still, the idea that he needs to purchase a jar of glue disturbed his mind and prevented him to focus on his meditation. 

It took him hours of struggle to shake off this insignificant disturbance before he managed to listen and converse with his soul.

What, being in harmony with your soul isn’t an important job? Since when did material tasks have presented the only solutions to stability of the mind and body?


            (So many times at work we are conscious that all that need to be done was finished in the morning, and that tomorrow’s tasks can wait for tomorrow.  In the meantime we are practically “redundant” but cannot shake off the feeling that something more should be done, since we are paid to log in 8 hours of work.  Thus, we fret, we meddle in the tasks of other people, our nervousness becomes contagious, and the entire workplace is disturbed and anxious.  All that was required is to acknowledge that you have finished your job and you deserve some time off to cool it down and converse with your soul.)

An enterprising man got bankrupt.  He discovered a decrepit residence that matched his dream.  The owner of the property agreed, for board and lodging, to let the ruined man to restore the residence.  Within a year, the dream house was standing in its former glory and the man’s spirit shining like a gold coin. For a true dream idea we should be satisfied with board and lodging.


Many people still move a little.  You have individuals who lived at one location when singles, they relocated across the street when they married.  Many of these “across the street lodgers” lived to be old people; they never needed the help of anyone.  (Is that the best or the worst character that human kind is capable of?

For example, Vera Anderson lived in Medford, Oregon all her life.  Vera had dreamed of touring the world when she goes on retreat but she died before her plan takes off.  Vera’s testament was that she be cremated; her ash distributed to 241 pouches; 50 to the chiefs of the main post offices in the 50 States and 191 to every recognized States by the UN.  These pouches were to be scattered to places that Vera would have liked to visit. 

All around the world communities assembled to decide of the best locations to visit and her ash was dispersed accordingly.

Many parents experienced extended prison terms; many sentences were not of civil crimes.  Many served in wars. They come home with a few belonging from prison.  They hide or lock up those belonging in obscure corners in the house. 

It is up to the offspring to discover those “miserable inheritances” to remind themselves that refreshing memories now and then is good for the future of humanity. 

A son carried the old and smelly outfit of his dad in small handbags any which way life took him. A few make it a sacred ritual to touch the bag before taking a decision: the impression that this reminder of the existence of this bag might improve their behavior.

(A flood of questions come to mind; why parents have to keep their prison souvenirs? Why lock them up if they are so important? Why not communicating with their offspring about their experience in prison? Why not writing about their emotions and conditions of feeling incarcerated if they are that important?  Why preferring to committing suicide instead of opening up?  Why the inheritors fail to wash and iron their “sacred trove”?  Are only official military uniforms worth washing, ironing, and displaying?

There are many reports from rebel plagued States.  The rebels and the governments reciprocate in crimes against humanity.  Most rebellious movements create parks for children; the tombs are toboggans, the swings posts made out of old rifles, pictures of “kid martyrs” plastered around the park: those innocent eyes will soon shine with hatred and their tiny bodies torn to pieces when exploding among crowded civilians.

(Social memory is selective.  The horrors of the past registered by lousy writers ended up in the dust bins.  The terrors of the past that generated laws which didn’t pass “parliaments” ended up in archives.  Only the lousy laws enacted by the military colonial powers were retained by under developed States, such as detention without prosecution.)

The French Colonel Jean-Paul Setau was contributing money to the sick in under-developed States.  He specifically adopted (medically) a girl suffering of leprosy from India.  He visited this girl at the special hospital in France and the nun asked him to deliver spiritual (religious) education for the children.  Jean-Paul prayed and got the answer “go and find out the questions that kids might want answers for“.  Jean-Paul received a list of written questions from kids; a sample follows:

1)      Where do we go after death?

2)      Why are we afraid of strangers?

3)      Do extraterrestrials exist?

4)      Why accidents occur to even people who believe in God?

5)      What God means?

6)      Why we are born if we have to die?

7)      How many stars in the sky?

8)      Does the Lord listen to those who believe in other Gods?

9)      Why there are poor and sick people?

10)  Why God created mosquitoes and flies?

11)  Why the guardian angle is not close by when we feel sad?

12)  Why we love a few people and hate other?

13)  Who named the colors?

14)  If God is in heaven with my dead mother, how come God can still be alive?


(I have a couple of questions.

First, if we are honest and sincere, then which one of the questions can you provide an answer to? 

Second, if you indeed can answer a question, then how are you going to translate your comprehension to kids? 

As for the first question I have no response; but I do have one for my second concern. 

I suggest that you speak in stories and parables as Jesus did, but with a twist, that your stories are extracted from our current time and civilization such as video games, school life, urban situation, a few trip in nature, computer, internet navigation, biking, movies, pop songs, and what else do kids do to fill up the void and vacuum nowadays.  If you can come up with such kids’ stories that answer a few of the above questions then you can get rich, filthy rich.)


            Okakura Kakuzo commented in his book “The Tea Ritual in Japan”: 

When I judge someone I am conscious that the tribunal was set up for me: I am judging myself. 

We do not see meanness in others: we can only notice our meanness.

We can never forgive those who prejudiced us: We believe that we will never be forgiven. 

We tell the harsh truth to our brother: We want to hide it in ourselves. 

We show our force and power: We do not want others to witness our frailty.

The ceremony of tea drinking is the adoration of what is beautiful and simple. The effort is focused on the imperfect gestures of everyday with the aim of attempting the perfect task.  The beauty is in the complete respect of what is being done. A day offers dozens of opportunities for perfecting awkward tasks.

In Scandinavia, the Jante Law says: “You are worthless.  Nobody is interested in what you think. Mediocrity and anonymity are your best choices.  If you act according to Jante Law then all your problems will vanish”


This Janti Law is the most common and most adhered to by most countries and people, though it was never formulated as clearly or known as the Law of the Lands of Mediocrity. 

The Janti Law was stated in the novel “A refugee surpasses his limits” by Aksei Sandemose in 1933.  This law was disseminated recently when the Norwegian Princess Martha-Louise married the writer Ari Behn.  Ari Behn was a recognized and acclaimed writer before he wedded the princess.  After the marriage Ari was vehemently critiqued and lambasted by writers for no other reason but for daring to surpass his class status. 

That is how the world got familiar with this Scandinavian Law. 

By the way, Princess Martha-Louise embroidered her gown with the names of who counted in her life for her thirtieth birthday and many started to emulate her generous spirit.

People always claim that many wars would not have started if an anti-Janti Law was preponderant and people knew that they are worth far more than what they think; that what you do on earth is far more important than what you believe; that acting against injustice and expressing your opinions against tyrants will ultimately prevail. 

That might be so, but it was still an abstract notion until 2003 when the King of Mediocrity, George W. Bush, prevailed against all the world community and launched his pre-emptive war against Iraq.  The Spanish PM Aznar defied the wishes of 90% of the Spanish citizens and so did the British PM Blair. The UN did not cover the operation.  Turkey declined 26 billions dollar in aid and denied the US troops to cross the Turkish land or launch military operations against its neighboring State.  Colin Powell was forced to forge falsified proofs; documents and aerial photographs that Hans Blix, the inspector of Iraq disarmament on nuclear and chemical engines of war, contested for many months.  Britain Foreign Minister, Jack Straw, went as far as justifying this war on moral grounds.  The European Nations and their people were against this war.  The Arab States unified to decry this war.  The whole world demonstrated for two months, but the King of Mediocrity prevailed.

No, it was not all in vain. Things have changed even if a few leaders still feel shy to denounce the genocide of the Zionist State perpetrated against the Palestinians in Gaza. The results of democratic elections are recognized even if they don’t suit the philosophy of a few powerful nations.  A new urgency for diplomatic resolutions is taking over in world politics.  Sure, financial and economic downturns are helping that overture climate, but Mediocrity is subsiding among nations. 

(The common people of nations are reawakening to known fundamentals that terrorism and religious extremism are the result of fear, inequality in rights, injustices, and lack of freedom of speech coupled with anemic economies and lack of opportunities and professional diversity in jobs.  In order to establish just, prosperous, and democratic political systems around the world we have got to believe that it is very possible because it is right and urgent.)


            As people delve into spirituality a dangerous phenomenon is generated, mainly a firmer intolerance toward the spirituality of others; as if our newly acquired spirituality cannot develop without the debasement of other alternative spiritual methods; (as if spirituality obeys the rule of demand and supply, or an accounting register where debit should match credit.)

The following are Lethal Spiritual Myths:


            Myth one: Only one way leads to God.  This is the most dangerous and lethal myth that was the cause and mostly the main excuse for many wars, persecutions, genocides, and judgments of our neighbors.  The weakness in our spirituality is to blame the authorities or sacerdotal castes for the calamities that we perpetrate on others; we always fails to shoulder our individual responsibility for our belief system and that is why the authorities have an easy job of enslaving our spirit and guiding us whichever they wish us to do.


            Myth two:  The spirit can cure all. There are countless individuals who realized that physicians can overcome illnesses that all our spiritual gimmicks could not cure.  Many times, it is better to pray that the experienced surgeon still rely on God to guide his hands during operations.  How many were victims of curable illness simply because of taboo spirituality?


            Myth three: Red meat obstructs divine light.  There are many trends for “purifying our body” by eating the most appropriate kinds of food and how it should be cooked for various reasons, and basically and implicitly based on religious doctrines. Jesus said “Evil is not in what enters your mouth but what goes out” Vegetables and flowers grown in greenhouses are might be purer for the consumers but they are incapable as naturally grown vegetables to resist minor weather variations.  Vegetarians are still eating live condiments that obey the cycle of life as we will also end up being food for lower creatures and fishes. (There are sects that prohibit ail, onion, tomatoes, dairy product, leavened products, and sugar on the ground that they disturb focus in contemplation and meditations.  Others sects prohibit other kinds of condiments on the ground that they are poison to the body ‘that shell that is sanctified by God”.)


            Myth four: God is sacrificial. People seek self-sacrificial ways by claiming that the road to heaven is through physical suffering.  If this world is a benediction of God then why not take the opportunity to enjoying our life?  Jesus Christ suffered for three days but he enjoyed most of his life traveling, meting people, sharing his bread, and disseminating his message of tolerance and charity. The Prophet Muhammad said “Unhappiness is contagious; if you are unhappy you extend it to our neighbors”


            Myth five: God is a concept that became real, like the number zero and the imaginary number in mathematics, for constructing moral values that suit Nations.  This myth is intrinsically related to myth one: God was rendered indispensable for mankind, was reduced to serve man, malleable to man’s desires and his will for power.  God is used to harangue armies to war and to escape the resolutions of real problems.  Man manipulates God as the arbiter in nuclear debates and even in school systems.  God is used to lambaste totalitarian regimes, Marxist regimes, opposition political parties, discriminating among the evil and good States, and West versus East. 

God is made use of in order to justify repression, apartheid, genocide, and racism.

God is used as a moral police force to subjugate recalcitrant opinions. 

God is even used in sciences under masked names such as “I don’t know, it escape human cognitive power, providence, organized chaos, other irrational causes, and so on”. 

Religions have instituted sacerdotal castes with power to dominate and regulate civil life from birth to death

As long as institutions and State governments use God to do business then God is another useful commodity and versatile enough to be transacted any which way.  No, God is an individual necessity and has nothing to do with collective usage.  God never needed an institution to promote Him.  Man had the firmament of stars, of nature, of the huge varieties of animals, vegetables, fruits, insect, seasons, thunderstorms, volcanoes, tidal waves, the sun, and the moon to believe that there is a God and that nothing man does will not fructify if God did not participate in the process.)

Pablo Coelho attempts to offer guidelines before climbing a mountain. 

First, select the mountain of your choice since you are the sole responsible and you have to be sure of what you are doing. 

Second, learn how to face the mountain by trying all the possible routes to contour the mountain.  The mountain that looks pretty and interesting from afar is but a terrible challenge when starting to conquer it. 

Third, do not hesitate to ask counsel of those who climbed your mountain of choice.

Fourth, at close scrutiny dangers seem controllable. This is a fine hint that you need to watch every step while climbing. 

Fifth, take advantage to view the changing scenery as you progress steadily.

Sixth, respect the capabilities and limitations of your physical conditioning. If your intention is to be back by nightfall then the speed of your progress should be steady with allowance that the summit is always farther than expected.

Seventh, have respect for your spirit.  You do not need to constantly repeat “I can do it” because your spirit already knows it; and never say “It is more difficult than contemplated” because you might lose your inner force.

Eight, rejoice when at the summit.  Cry, holler, jump, dance, and tell the whole world that your achievement is now part of your life and a stepping stone toward many other successes.

Nine, as you have realized your potential then plan other excursions and adventures.

Ten, tell your adventure story and recount how it was possible to vanquish what seemed insurmountable.

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March 2009

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