Paulo Coelho The Hippie, a Book Review

I bought The Hippie from the airport bookstore to read during the flight to Colorado. I was dating a hippie at the time and I like Coelho so I thought it would pass the time in a good way. It was July when I started and November when I finished; I got distracted along the way. 

As he writes about the Magic Bus and the people he meets I find that I’m drawn into all their stories. I was reading it more for the people and learning about them, and not so much about finding a life philosophy. As I read I’m constantly referring to maps to figure out where they are and understand the physical journey. 

The main take-away from this book is learning about the character’s urgings to see the world. I enjoyed reading the stories of men and women who want to take every opportunity to see the world. They are full of hope and want to change the world while having amazing experiences. They start their journey in Amsterdam, stopping in Istanbul as they make their way to Kathmandu. 

Paulo learns from everyone and finally he meets a white-haired man while taking a risk walking into a building. Paulo is in search of knowledge and wisdom. And my favorite quote from the book: 

“A man in search of spirituality knows little, because he reads of it and tries to fill his intellect with what he judges wise. Trade your books for madness and wonder—then you will be a bit closer to what you seek. Books bring us opinions and studies, analyses and comparisons, while the sacred flame of madness brings us to the truth.”

Other quotes I like:
“Salute the sun. Allow it to fill your soul – knowledge is an illusion, ecstacy is the true reality.”

Paulo is in search of dancing and learning the ways of the Sufi. It’s not until I re-read sections to really understand what he is looking for. I like this quote so much.

“Then seek the Truth. Seek always to be on its side, even when it brings you pain. There are times when the Truth goes quiet for long stretches, or when it doesn’t tell you what you want to hear. That’s Sufism.”

“‘The Truth is what makes us free. You will know the Truth and the Truth shall set you free,’ Jesus said.”

“He had entered a state of complete emptiness, and this emptiness, though its inherent contradiction, filled everything.”

A Gentleman in Moscow, A Review

This is my first book review since deciding to read and review one book a week in my 49th year. I started this book a month ago and finished it today. In the future, I will read each book in the week before the Sunday Review.  

This is not a book about the outdoors, it actually takes place entirely indoors, in Moscow’s Metropol Hotel. Every sentence in A Gentleman in Moscow is magical and interesting. There are so many things I like: the characters, how the Count teaches Osip about being a gentleman, and that it takes places over so many decades. We watch the Count get older and become more interesting. 

There are so many great lines. The Count takes his seat in the restaurant with his newspaper “the international symbol of dining alone. I just laugh at the cleverness of language. 

The most interesting aspect of the story, and where everything gets really good is when he meets Nina, a nine-year-old girl living in the hotel with her father, they immediately become friends. 

She appears at his table and points out to him that his moustache is gone, the barber made a mistake and then he decided it all had to go. 

“Where did they go?” she asks him at first. She had been studying him for weeks apparently.
“Like swallows they traveled elsewhere for the summer.”

The narrator goes on to wonder what is being taught at school. You are not to ask questions about personal appearance. But they become friends forever at that moment. 

Nina learns about all the hidden spots in the hotel and the best scene is when she starts to include the Count on her adventures. She has the master key to the hotel and show the Count into a room; looking both ways before entering. He follows suit in future adventures and it’s so endearing. They both end up learning so much from each despite the Count is not allowed to leave the hotel since confined to house arrest. 

One of my favorite scenes, and there are so many of them is when his friend Mishka says to his friend the Count, “Who would’ve imagined when you were sentenced to life at the Metropol … that you had become the luckiest man in the world.” (292)

He had made friends and became a father to a parent-less girl. He had a great life.

It was when he becomes the caretaker to Nina’s child that he realizes what was so important in his life. He was at the hotel when Nina asked the biggest favor, to care for her child.

But in the end, it has been the inconveniences that have mattered most.

(352)

I could go on and on forever about the characters and quotes and poignant moments. Please read this book. It will make you want to learn more about Russian history, music and art. I took in every sentence and read slower than I ever have so I didn’t miss any details. It was so worth the days I gave up to read this amazing book. This book reminds me why I love reading and books. Stories like this bring you into their world where you fall in love with characters and want to see new places.

Our lives are steered by uncertainties, but that if we persevere and remain generous of heart, we may be granted a moment of supreme lucidity…

I have so many questions about the book and want to understand it all. I’m going to have to read it again. But not now. I have more new books to read as part of my 49th Year. Next up: Paulo Coehlo, Hippie. I started reading it over the summer and will finish it and write a review for week 2.

What I Know For Sure

My friend Kendra is crazy about the sunrise. A few times a year she makes a concerted effort to see a sunrise in New England because they are part of her family history. Today she posted on her Facebook page a quote from Oprah Winfrey about a sunrise from Oprah’s book about knowing what is true. Here is the quote Kendra used in her post while capturing a most wonderful sunrise while on vacation in South Carolina: “that every sunrise is like a new page, a chance to right ourselves and receive each day in all its glory.

Her post reminds me of an article I clipped from Oprah Magazine in 2012. I remember something about instincts and trusting your intuition but I have to go back to my archives (a.k.a. my notebooks and journals) to find the article I clipped. 

I find it instantly and see that it was written by Winfrey in May 2012, a few years before she published her book, What I Know is True. 

In the article Oprah reflects on a photo of she and Jesse Jackson. She writes about how the photo transports her back in time to her first celebrity interview and, as a news reporter, she was covering Jackson’s speaking engagement at a local high school.

She goes on to write in the article, what I feel is something true about me that gets lost in daily work and living, 
“I had a fondness for telling other people’s stories, extracting the truth of their experience into digestible nuggets that could inform, inspire, or benefit someone else. Still I was uncertain about what to say or how to say it. The truth is, I was just moving on instinct.

I love this story and I love re-reading it often, and being reminded about it. Oprah was moving on instinct at an early stage in her career but didn’t know it was working for her until much later. How many times have I done something on instinct, hoping it works out, not knowing? A lot! 

So when Kendra writes about something that she knows is true, I remember what is true for me: trust my instincts and going with it. Use that intuition without knowing the outcomes. Sometimes following my instinct has led me down a path of fear and anguish, and other times I’ve had experiences that have changed my life for the better when I trusted my intuition. [moving to Tucson, moving back to Colorado, moving back to New Hampshire]

“Trust your instincts. Intuition doesn’t lie.”

Some days I complain to the ones I love about how hard everything has been lately for me but a little quote I see, briefly, this morning, reminds me how lucky and fulfilled I really am. Life is challenging almost every second of it but I’m so happy with the people in my life, the ones who stay in my life. If only I could keep this thought when my brain takes a downward dive into doubt and despair. What I know for sure …….

Anne Lamott

“What saved me was that I found gentle, loyal and hilarious companions, which is at the heart of meaning: maybe we don’t find a lot of answers to life’s tougher questions, but if we find a few true friends, that’s even better. They help you see who you truly are, which is not always the loveliest possible version of yourself, but then comes the greatest miracle of all—they still love you. They keep you company as perhaps you become less of a whiny baby, if you accept their help. And that is so much easier said than done.”

Notes on Hope, Anne Lamott quotes

I’ve been listening to Almost Everything: Notes on Hope by Anne Lamott for the last week in my car; driving to work, driving to the mountains and the many trips to find a second dog to adopt. The audio book is only three discs and I’ve listened to the entire book three times as of this writing. I just love her, and her words make me laugh at the absurdity of living in this world; and at the same time nod my head and say amen. 

But what happens to me when I Iisten to her over and over is that when I start to write, some of her words spill onto my page. 

Such as today as I was writing in my journal about some interactions I had earlier, and in the past, and when I looked back on them I knew I was behaving badly. I felt justified at the time, saying and doing what I said and did, but as I wrote I knew it wasn’t the best way to act. It reminded me of Anne reading from Notes on Hope saying that there are times that she knows she is feeling righteous and arrogant. She knows that she is wrong. But then she apologizes, prays, gives to the poor and calls a friend. I feel that way too, looking back at things I’ve said in the past – I feel badly about my behavior. I’m going to try not to do it again. I will pray a lot. And I will, apologize. And I will give back by giving blood. 

Anne just makes me feel better. I will listen to her book a few more times before returning it to the library. For now, I’ll just finish up this post with a few quotes from her other books that help me when I feel sad and unworthy. But they also remind me that I have so many great things in my life: primarily my friends. Being a friend is my saving grace. 

It’s funny: I always imagined when I was a kid that adults had some kind of inner toolbox full of shiny tools: the saw of discernment, the hammer of wisdom, the sandpaper of patience. But then when I grew up I found that life handed you these rusty bent old tools – friendships, prayer, conscience, honesty – and said ‘do the best you can with these, they will have to do’. And mostly, against all odds, they do.”

― Anne Lamott, Traveling Mercies: Some Thoughts on Faith

“I’m as scared and angry as everyone else, but one of the blessings of being a little bit older is that being scared and angry doesn’t last as long. And you don’t always remember why you are scared and angry.”

“Almost every facet of my meager maturation and spiritual understanding has sprung from hurt, loss, and disaster.”

Yes Anne, this is what you do for me:

Writing and reading decrease our sense of isolation. They deepen and widen and expand our sense of life: they feed the soul. When writers make us shake our heads with the exactness of their prose and their truths, and even make us laugh about ourselves or life, our buoyancy is restored. We are given a shot at dancing with, or at least clapping along with, the absurdity of life, instead of being squashed by it over and over again. It’s like singing on a boat during a terrible storm at sea. You can’t stop the raging storm, but singing can change the hearts and spirits of the people who are together on that ship.” – Anne Lamott