“It’s a book that says the same thing almost all the other books in the world say,” continued the old man. It describes people’s inability to choose their own Personal Legends. And it ends up saying that everyone believes the world’s greatest lie.”

“What’s the world’s greatest lie?” the boy asked, completely surprised.

“It’s this: that at a certain point in our lives, we lose control of what’s happening to us, and our lives become controlled by fate. That’s the world’s greatest lie.”

“That’s never happened to me,” the boy said. “They wanted me to be a priest, but I decided to become a shepherd.”

“Much better,” said the old man. “Because you really like to travel.”

“He knew what I was thinking,” the boy said to himself. The old man, meanwhile, was leafing through the book, without seeming to want to return it at all. The boy noticed that the man’s clothing was strange. He looked like an Arab, which was not unusual in those parts. Africa was only a few hours from Tarifa; one had only to cross the narrow straits by boat. Arabs often appeared in the city, shopping and chanting their strange prayers several times a day.

I’m going to skip a little. Melchizedek, the king of Salem, reveals himself to the boy by telling him things about himself he has told no one.

“Why would a king be talking to a shepherd?” the boy asked, awed and embarrassed.

“For several reasons. But let’s say that the most important is that you have succeeded in discovering your Personal Legend.”

The boy didn’t know what a person’s “Personal Legend” was.

“It’s what you have always wanted to accomplish. Everyone, when they are young, knows what their Personal Legend is.

“At that point in their lives, everything is clear and everything is possible. They are not afraid to dream and to yearn for everything they would like to see happen to them in their lives. But, as time passes, a mysterious force begins to convince them that it will be impossible for them to realize their Personal Legend.”

(skipping a little again)

“It’s a force that appears to be negative, but actually shows you how to realize your Personal Legend. It prepares your spirit and your will, because there is one great truth on this planet: whoever you are, or whatever it is that you do, when you really want something, it’s because that desire originated in the soul of the universe. It’s your mission on earth.”

“Even when all you want to do is travel? Or marry the daughter of a textile merchant?”

“Yes, or even search for treasure. The Soul of the World is nourished by people’s happiness. And also by unhappiness, envy, and jealousy. To realize one’s Personal Legend is a person’s only real obligation. All things are one. And, when you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it.”

(skipping)

The old man pointed to a baker standing in his shop window at one corner of the plaza. “When he was a child, that man wanted to travel, too. But he decided first to buy his bakery and put some money aside. When he’s an old man, he’s going to spend a month in Africa. He never realized that people are capable, at any time in their lives, of doing what they dream of.”

“He should have decided to become a shepherd,” the boy said.

“Well, he thought about that,” the old man said. “But bakers are more important people than shepherds. Bakers have homes, while shepherds sleep out in the open. Parents would rather see their children marry bakers than shepherds.”

The boy felt a pang in his heart, thinking about the merchant’s daughter. There was surely a baker in her town.

The old man continued, “In the long run, what people think about shepherds and bakers becomes more important for them than their own Personal Legends.”

(skipping)

People learn, early in their lives, what is their reason for being,” said the old man, with a certain bitterness. “Maybe that’s why they give up on it so early, too. But that’s the way it is.”

Melchizedek makes his first appearance in Genesis. After returning from a successful route of the confederation of kings, Abraham met Melchizedek, the king of Salem (peace), and tithed a tenth of all the loot to him.

The story of Abraham has always held wonderful mystery for me. The son of an idol-maker hearing the voice of God and wandering into the desert to follow God is the story of a Personal Legend indeed. He saw the wooden, silver, and gold idols his father made as a lie. Unwilling to make a good living perpetuating that lie, he wandered into the desert after the truth. (I’m often drawn to stories where people wander out to the desert or wilderness for truth…hmmm).

Paulo Coelho‘s book, The Alchemist, also has a protagonist who must wander into the desert to follow his Personal Legend. Many of you may recognize these snippets as from that book. For me, this book was a life-changer. It is one of those fables full of wisdom — especially about following one’s heart, which I’ve meditated on, lately.

So, this is what I learn from Melchizedek and Paulo:

1) the world’s greatest lie is we have no control of our fates

2) we all have a Personal Legend and it is revealed to us when we are young

3) mysterious forces will try to convince us our Personal Legend is impossible

4) but if we stay true to our Personal Legend the mysterious forces will no longer be a negative force but a force that crystallizes and perfects our Personal Legend

5) our personal legend is what we’ve always wanted to do and it is our mission on earth. It has its origin in something greater than ourselves (the Soul of the World). It does not have to be grand or important to other people. It can be simple and seemingly small to other people.

6) our only real obligation is to realize our Personal Legend and follow it

7) when we follow our Personal Legend, the universe will conspire to help us achieve it (even though it may sometimes appear as a negative force)

8) we are capable, at any time in our lives, of doing what we dream of

9) sometimes, what other people think becomes more important than our Personal Legends

10) we learn early in our lives our reason for being, but we also give up on it early in our lives

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