Reflections of a Grumpy

I’ve been silent for quite a while. In part this is because I have been involved in so much travel and other work. But also I suffer slightly from the constant barrage of social media and other forms of electronic communication. What is it about human beings that make us think that everyone in the world will be interested in the minutiae of our individual lives. There seems to be an uncontrollable competition for self-disclosure if not self-promotion. May be my problem is that I’m part of a dying generation and have therefore been promoted to the status of Grumpy Old Man. This accolade is not the result of any election to office. It’s the inevitability of life which the younger generation usually fails to see is hurtling toward them as well. grumpy_old_men

In the western society in which I am embedded in Australia, once one reaches the grand old age of 40, he or she is often cast off as some sort of irrelevant has-been with nothing further to offer those who are younger, whose appetites demand constant titillation for the ever fleeting, impossibly sustainable new happening. Fortunately for my sense of self worth, I spend much of my time beyond the shallow trivialities of Western culture in the developing world in which ones value in society appreciates with age.

Today, in my very small hotel room in the middle of Tirana, the capital city of Albania it’s Saturday morning. All is quiet. The sun streams through the window and I do not have another engagement for 90 minutes. Such seclusion and  anonymity is bliss for the soul.

I have just read an article in German and English about a novelist. He is Paulo Coelho. He is a best selling Brazilian author. I only get time to read one novel a year and this  when I am on a snippet of annual leave. Image

http://paulocoelho.com/images/avatar_500.png

Coelho has sold 150 million books. He has 11.5 million Facebook friends and more than 8 million followers on Twitter. He has lived a rich and fulfilling life that flows into his stories.

In his youth he indulged in many of the past-times common to that era of our lives. In his twenties he spent two years hitch-hiking through South America, Africa and Europe. He classified himself as a real hippy. He did drugs, magic rituals, joined a sect and indulged in a whole bunch of what he calls “crazy things”.

These days he doesn’t have to worry about money. For relaxation he fronts up at the counter at his nearest airport with his wife and asks the destination of the next available flight on which there are available seats. Wherever that flight is going he joins it even if it is to Timbuktu. He sees the biggest advantage of being wealthy as not having to do anything he doesn’t want to do. But money does not dominate. He wears a cheap plastic watch, although obviously he could afford a much more elaborate customized timepiece like many of the glitterati wear to impress others.

He avoids cocktail parties because he considers them boring, always inhabited by the same people mouthing the same conversations through the same forced smiles. He considers it is much better to take photos of nature and go for walks with his wife.

His novels are created in his head and flow out when the time is right. He writes one in a matter of weeks. Occasionally he produces something that he considers not up to standard ,in which case he hits the delete button.

To achieve what he has become, one needs to dig a little below the surface. As a boy he attended a Jesuit school in Rio de Janeiro where he learned the role of discipline. He came to realize that discipline and freedom are not mutually exclusive. Earlier in his life his family considered him a rebel because he wanted to be an artist rather than an engineer like his father. He sees the gateway to reason as being supported by two pillars, discipline and passion. The balance between these two enables him to write for eight hours a day. For exercise he practices archery.

Since his 1988 novel, The Alchemist, which became his first international best seller, he has become one of the world’s most successful novelists. The question is, apart from discipline how is such creativity maintained?

The secret is probably this. Sometime ago he spent two years travelling around the world revisiting people whom he considered he had hurt or offended. To each he offered an apology.

These days he says, “I always apologize to people within three days. I think it is important to ask people for forgiveness (even if that means) you don’t forget everything that has happened.”

Long ago Jesus had something to say on this subject. He said it was very important to forgive [Matthew 5:23-24: 6:14-15; Mark 11:25-26; John 20:26]. If we don’t forgive the result will be a root of bitterness in our lives [Hebrews 12: 14-15; Ephesians 4:31-32}. And if that is not extracted the result is hatred and murder {1john 3:15].

Archer Coelho has hit a bull’s-eye. I like this guy[and Jesus]. I can learn from him even if he was born only in 1947.

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