Synchronicity and Paulo Coelho

Synchronicity is the coming together of inner and outer events in a way that cannot be explained by cause and effect and that is meaningful to the observer. -- Carl Jung

Anything that occurs once can never occur again. But, should it happen twice, it will surely happen a third time. -- Paulo Coelho

A theme running throughout the work of Paulo Coelho, is that of coincidence, or what I would call synchronicity.

Omens are another theme, understanding how to understand and follow them, how to achieve your destiny.

Synchronicity is that of meaningful coincidences, coincidences that are so improbable that they cannot be explained by chance alone.

The concept of synchronicity was developed by Carl Jung. Deepak Chopra takes it a stage further and calls synchronicity communication across the transition zone (see How to Know God). In the language of Paulo Coelho, it would be communication with the Soul of the World.

I was introduced to Paulo Coelho due to a chance meeting with a lovely Lithuanian girl. We were both sitting outside a pub in Guildford, relaxing by the river. I asked her what she was reading. The Zahir she said, which she recommended I try.

Following on from our conversation, I just managed to catch a bookshop as it was closing and picked up a copy of Like the Flowing River. A couple of days later I picked up a copy of The Alchemist.

When I met the Lithuanian girl, I was reading or had just finished The New York Trilogy by Paul Auster. Three tales that revolve around coincidences.

A couple of weeks after I met the lovely Lithuanian girl I spent the day in Brighton.

I was in a Bohemian part of Brighton called North Laine. I looked in all the secondhand bookshops looking for and hoping to find anything by Paulo Coelho. To date I had drawn a blank, and Brighton was not proving the exception, until I went into a rabbit warren of a place, I had never been in before. To my pleasant surprise I found a couple of books by Paulo Coelho.

I picked up Eleven Minutes, then went off to eat at a lovely vegetarian restaurant nearby.

Whilst I was sitting outside, a member of staff noticed I had Eleven Minutes. The Alchemist he said, to which I replied yes. I then showed him I had a copy of The Alchemist which I had brought along with me to read.

History repeating itself, a sense of déja vu?

It was only a couple of weeks earlier I was sat relaxing outside a pub in Guildford by the river when I got chatting with the lovely girl from Lithuania. She was reading The Zahir. The Alchemist I said, yes she replied.

Copacabana features in Eleven Minutes as the beach Maria takes her holiday and goes for a swim and from where she is enticed to go and work in Switzerland. Copacabana is also a club in Geneva out of which Maria works as a prostitute.

Copacabana was also the name of an excellent Brazilian restaurant in Brighton, where I had intended to eat that evening. I say was, as I sadly learnt it had closed since my last visit to Brighton.

After finishing my meal, I went back in the rabbit warren where I had found the Paulo Coelho, as I see as I am walking past, books just inside the entrance by the window, books that I had missed on my earlier visit. An amazing collection, someone with taste, but even more amazing, several books by Paulo Coelho. Of which, I buy a few, but not all.

On my way home I continued reading The Alchemist.

There is an implicit reference to William Blake in The Alchemist, when as the alchemist and Santiago are crossing the desert the alchemist tells Santiago 'You don't even have to understand the desert: all you have to do is contemplate a simple grain of sand, and you will see in it all the marvels of creation.'

To see a World in a Grain of Sand
And a Heaven in a Wild Flower,
Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand
And Eternity in an hour.

William Blake is a favourite author of Paulo Coelho, and of my Russian friend Dasha.

A couple of days earlier, I had sent this passage to my friend Dasha. Dasha also just happens to be a friend of Paulo Coelho.

Angel Luna street art exhibition in Brighton As I headed towards the beach, I came across a street art exhibition. I talked with one of the artists, a lovely Colombian girl called Angel Luna.

I said I would give her the web address of my friend Dasha, who is a very good artist, as she may wish to look at her work.

I ask Angel Luna to name a favourite Colombian writer. Without hesitation she replies Gabriel Garcia Marquez. Favourite writers of my lovely Russian artist friend Dasha include William Blake, Paulo Coelho and Gabriel García Márquez.

Brighton Pier and moon It isn't until the next day, I recall many of the works of Dasha are of Angels. That evening, after watching the sun set from Brighton Pier, I walked along the seafront and saw a lovely full moon over the pier.

A couple of days after my Brighton trip I was once again in Guildford and managed to pick up a copy of The Zahir. [see BCID 5422490]

Almost a week later I was in a local bookshop run by a friend. I looked around, then saw and picked up two copies of By the River Piedra I Sat Down and Wept. To add to my growing collection, I said to my friend, one for you and one for me. Yes, he replied, I do not know where they came from, I found these two out the back. [see BCID 5426304]

The day after visiting my friend's bookshop, the weekend following my Brighton trip, I look in a local charity shop, and to my amazement find two books by Paulo Coelho sitting on the shelves. Having not seen them before, I inquire, to be told not seen them before, do not know where they have come from. The Alchemist and The Valkyries get added to my growing Paulo Coelho collection.

A month on after meeting the lovely Lithuania girl who introduced me to Paulo Coelho I found myself once again in Guildford. The foot and mouth restrictions had been partially lifted and the farmers market was able to take place. It somehow came as no surprise to me that I should find myself chatting to Irene Black, author of The Moon's Complexion. [see BCID 5438160]

We discussed BookCrossing and I briefly mentioned what is written here. Paulo Coelho, isn't he The Alchemist, more a statement of fact than a question, was the response I got! That sense of déja vu again!

The day I met and chatted with novelist and short story writer Irene Black, I found an e-mail from my lovely Russian friend Alissa. She tells me she has read several books by Paulo Coelho and that she would like to read The Zahir.

It was The Zahir the lovely Lithuanian girl was reading who I met a month ago!

The same day I get a mention in Irene Black's delightful blog, This & that from Irene Black. The blog has been nominated for a Creative Blogger Award.

A couple of days after chatting with Irene Black I receive an SMS text message from my lovely Russian friend Alissa recommending that I try Eleven Minutes, a book she liked. I was about to go away on a trip, Eleven Minutes was one of the books I was planning on taking to read whilst I was away. My destination is where Alissa and I met. Eleven Minutes was one of the books by Paulo Coelho I found on my recent trip to Brighton. Should the weather remain fine, a trip to Brighton was planned for the coming weekend. The beginning of the week, the day before I met and chatted with Irene Black, was the first time I had heard from Alissa since we met.

The day after I get my text message from Alissa, a couple of days before I go back down to Brighton, I look in a local shop and pick up a copy of Love in the Time of Cholera (El amor en los tiempos del cólera) by Gabriel García Márquez, a novel loosely based on the story of his parents' courtship. Gabriel García Márquez is a favourite author of my artist friends Dasha and Angel Luna.

The next day, the day before before I go down to Brighton, I find in a local shop By the River Piedra I Sat Down and Wept. It too gets added to my rapidly growing Paulo Coelho collection.

I chat to a lady who I have never met before and she tells me she is a great fan of Paulo Coelho and has most of his books.

I look in on a friend Claire with whose help we have set up a BookCrossing zone where people can drop off and pick up books and track their progress on the net via a unique BookCrossing ID (BCID).

Claire tells me she is going to Moscow and offers to drop some books off on Alissa. Claire also tells me she is a great fan of the Nobel Turkish writer Orhan Pamuk. Claire has recently read My Name is Red (Benim Adim Kirmizi) and Snow (Kar). She recommends I read too.

When Alissa e-mailed me to say she would like to read The Zahir, she also told me she had been reading Turkish author Orhan Pamuk!

I go down to Brighton and have a lovely day. I wander around North Laine, eat at a good vegetarian restaurant, stroll along the seafront and on the pier. I have brought lots of books with me, these I drop off as BookCrossing books on the journey down and at various locations in Brighton.

I look in the rabbit warren, and again find several books by Paulo Coelho, but this time do not pick any up. It is like picking wild fruit and nuts. Do not strip the tree bare, always leave some for others.

I had hoped to find anything by Orhan Pamuk, but in this I am disappointed and draw a blank. I had also hoped to find my Colombian artist friend Angel Luna by her street exhibition. Again I am disappointed. Her works are not there and neither is she.

My disappointment is though more than compensated by sparing a few minutes to listen to singer-guitarist Carly Bryant sing. I would have liked to have stayed longer and had a chat, but I wanted to get down to the seafront, so I get her contact details, pick up a copy of her album Twelve and head off down to the beach, or what in Brighton is jokingly called a beach.

I had taken with me The Alchemist, which I had picked up when I was last in Brighton. This I leave on the seafront as a BookCrossing book. Several people pick it up look at it, not sure, then put it down. Eventually a man picks it up, looks at it, not sure, hesitates, then passes it to his female companion. I hope she values what she has found. [see BCID 5416778]

Down on the seafront, Skidrow-on-sea (as the local council is known) has effectively censored a banner outside an art shop and gallery showing two naked men performing acrobatics on the beach. No, not those sort of acrobatics!

I wander along the seafront, then I remember a large bookstall, which I am pleased to find is still there. He has a good selection of books.

I get chatting to a girl from the Czech Republic and another girl from Poland. One picks up The Shadow of The Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafón based on my recommendation the other a Gabriel García Márquez I had my eye on. Both are fans of Paulo Coelho. I take The Valkyries by Paulo Coelho and The Name of the Rose (see BCID 5458065) by Umberto Eco, which one of the girls recommends I read.

Eastern Europeans appreciate good literature, thoughts I had previously e-mailed to Alissa. Or is it in their psyche?

Chatting to the guy who runs the stall, I learn it was his Eleven Minutes (see BCID 5416793) I picked up in the rabbit warren two weeks previous! I ask if he ever get any books by Orhan Pamuk. He tells me very occasionally. He says like Paulo Coelho, they go as soon as he puts them out. As did The Valkyries which I picked up.

On my way home, I stop off at Gatwick Airport and wish I was meeting my lovely Russian friend Alissa off a plane.

On the journey home I start to read The Valkyries. It will be the next book I read. It revolves around meeting angels! [see BCID 5458045]

I get home in the early hours of the morning, update this account, then listen to Twelve until around four in the morning. It is brilliant!

A couple days after my Brighton trip I find myself once again in Guildford. To my pleasant surprise I was able to find Snow by Orhan Pamuk. I let Alissa know and she replies 'Snow is very good. You will like it.'

A week later, I was yet again in Guildford, The Alchemist and Veronika Decides to Die gets added to my growing Paulo Coelho collection.

A couple of days later, more by accident than design, I was actually meant to be somewhere else, I found myself again in Brighton. I chatted with the owner of the place I had eaten before and dropped of a few books. He thought BookCrossing was an excellent idea and was even going to construct a bookshelf to hold the books.

I looked in a couple of bookshops, picked up two copies of My Name is Red by Orhan Pamuk and a copy of The Alchemist. I then wandered along the seafront, dropped a book off on the pier. It was very stormy, no one about.

I spent the next week reading My Name is Red, a beautiful book.

A week after my trip to Brighton, I got chatting to a Polish girl. She saw the book I had in my hand, and said Paulo Coelho, The Alchemist. That sense of déja vu again! I asked did she know the author, and she replied she did. She has read almost all of his books, but not The Alchemist. When I said she could have my copy, she was very, very happy. This was the same copy I had picked up in Brighton the week before. She had also not read The Valkyries. This too I had with me, but as yet, I had not read it myself.

A couple of days later I was chatting to a Czech girl, who also told me she liked Paulo Coelho. I gave her another of the Paulo Coelho books I had with me, Veronika Decides to Die, which I had just finished reading and asked that when she had finished reading it, would she please pass it on to my lovely Czech friend Iva, as I had just e-mailed Iva saying I thought she would like the book.

Of my two copies of My Name is Red, one went to the Polish girl, the other to the Czech girl with a request that when she had finished reading it, she passed it on to Iva.

A week after chatting to the Polish girl, I found myself, again by accident of fate not design, in a really cool beach-side night club. We all got chatting about good literature, music, synchronicity Paulo Coelho, Orhan Pamuk, Era by Eric Levi and Labyrinth by Kate Mosse, all got mentioned.

The day before, I picked up a DVD featuring a collection of Era videos, which I got around to watching the day after. Labyrinth is based on the persecution of the Cathars, a persecution that preceded the Spanish Inquisition. The Cathars were more free-thinking Christians than the Catholic Church, believed in direct communication with God, hated the rigid laws of the Catholic Church, reflected a feminine side to Christianity. Very much as espoused by Paulo Coelho, especially in The Witch of Portobello. Rather than renounce their faith the Cathars left their final stronghold at Montsegur and walked into burning pyres. A Cathar legend is that in 700 years time, the troubadours will sing. Is Era an attempt to fulfill the legend? On my long journey home, I picked up to read a copy of The Witch of Portobello. Athena reaches spiritual enlightenment through music and dance.

On the day I travelled on my long journey home, Paulo Coelho mentions these thoughts in his Blog! [see Synchronicity and Paulo Coelho]

There is a passage in The Witch of Portobello, where Athena visits the home of a journalist friend. She sees he is surrounded by thousands of books. She questions why he needs all these books and suggests they liberate these books so others may benefit from them rather than they be sitting in the flat collecting dust.

During the summer, my lovely friend Iva stayed with me for a few weeks. She went through the same exercise, questioned why I needed all these books and started to throw them out. I have since, admittedly with great reluctance, been getting rid of many of my books, either to charity shops or liberating as BookCrossing books. [see BookCrossing - the keithpp bookshelf]

Autumn leaves were falling, the trees were turning golden. I decided to travel down to Brighton and enjoy what I hoped would be a pleasant day before winter set in. And so it proved to be. I wandered around North Laine, found nothing of interest, then checked out the bookstall on the sea front. When I was last there talking to some girls from Eastern Europe, I had recommended The Shadow of the Wind, therefore it seemed appropriate that I pick up a copy. This I think my lovely friend Iva will like. My niece is going to Barcelona and a couple of days previous I had e-mailed her that she read Shadow of the Wind as it is set in Barcelona in the immediate aftermath of the Spanish Civil War. I also picked up yet another copy of The Alchemist and The Book of Illusions by Paul Auster, which the stall holder assured me had turned him into an avid Paul Auster reader. I enjoyed The New York Trilogy and had been on the look out for anything else by Paul Auster.

A couple of days later I was once again in Guildford. Chatting to a girl in a bookshop, she recommended that I read The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini, which luckily I was able to find the next day.

The weather stayed fine, and a week after what I thought would be my last visit for the year, I was able to squeeze in another day down in Brighton. On the way down, lovely autumn colours on the trees. The weather could not have been better, blue skies, sun all day long, though it meant it turned cold once the sun went down.

Chatting to a couple of very nice girls at my favourite vegetarian restaurant in North Laine, I was pleasantly surprised to learn one had read My Name is Red by Orhan Pamuk. As they were planning a trip to South India, I recommended they read The Moon's Complexion by Irene Black, as it is set in South India. They thanked me and in turn recommended that I read The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy, winner of the 1997 Booker Prize.

I wandered along the seafront to my favourite bookstall, and was pleased to be able to pick up a copy of The God of Small Things. I had wanted to pick up The New York Trilogy by Paul Auster for my lovely friend Alissa, which I had seen earlier in the day, but to my annoyance it had gone. Nor did I pick up a copy of The Kite Runner, which I had seen earlier, but I did though manage to find a copy of The Bookseller of Kabul by Norwegian journalist Åsne Seierstad, which I think my friend Iva will like. Written in the style of a novel, Åsne Seierstad paints a very depressing picture of the treatment of women in Afghanistan.

The following day I received an e-mail from Irene Black to say I was once again mentioned in her delightful blog This & that from Irene Black and to thank me for the book signing I had helped set up for her in a local bookshop.

A couple of days after my last Brighton trip the weather turned much colder. I trekked over to Guildford for a poetry reading at the Guildford Institute by Alwyn Marriage, part of the Guildford Book Festival. She read a selection of poems from her recently published collection Touching Earth. I particularly liked 'Indian summer', as it seemed most apt.

Earlier in the day I picked up a copy of By the River Piedra I Sat Down and Wept, a novel by Paulo Coelho I have yet to read.

Almost a week later, I was back in Guildford for the second week of the Guildford Book Festival. The weather was now much colder. This time I was at the Electric Theatre, a small intimate theatre converted from an old power station. I was there for Changing lives, readings of poetry by three actors, somewhere between a play and a poetry reading. After the performance, the actors chatted with people in the bar. The Electric Theatre is that sort of place. The poems were taken from collections published by Bloodaxe Books.

Earlier in the day, I met a very nice Brazilian girl. We chatted about Paulo Coelho and literature in general, the situation in the favelas in Brazil, AfroReggae, the film Favela Rising and the BeyondTV International Film Festival held in Swansea. She said she liked The Valkyries, a copy of which I had found earlier that day. She said she also liked The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini. I recommended that she therefore read The Bookseller of Kabul by Åsne Seierstad. I also thought she would like My Name is Red by Orhan Pamuk.

I then looked in on a friend in a bookshop who had recommended that I read The Kite Runner. I gave her a copy of The Alchemist. She told me she had started reading My Name is Red, which she said she was enjoying.

It was November, sunny, clear blue sky. Normally that would also mean freezing cold, only it wasn't, it was lovely and warm, 18 degrees!

A trip down to Brighton. It was not quite as warm, but still exceptionally warm for the time of year. The morning started off very misty, but once the sun broke through, it turned pleasantly warm. The trip down though was a nightmare, the trip back an even worse nightmare, public transport a Third World would be ashamed off, nevertheless, still a pleasant day in Brighton. [see Weekend public transport]

On the way down, nightmare journey to one side, the trees were in their full autumn colours. It made me think of 'Indian summer', which Alwyn Marriage read at the Guildford Institute during the Guildford Book Festival. [see Guildford Book Festival 2007]

Sitting outside my favourite restaurant in North Laine, a BookCrossing zone, I chatted to a very pleasant couple about Paulo Coelho, Hermann Hesse and BookCrossing.

Then a tour of the bookshops in North Laine and along the seafront to my favourite bookstall by the derelict West Pier.

I wanted a copy of The Girl at the Lion d'Or, an excellent novel by Sebastian Faulks which I had just finished reading. I found two. I also picked up a few other books including Brick Lane by Monica Ali and The Alchemist. The previous day I picked up a copy of The Devil and Miss Prym.

The copy of The Alchemist, I passed to a friend a few days later. [see BCID 5622533]

Once the sun went down it soon turned cold, reminding me that however pleasant it had been during the day, it really was the onset of winter.

On my nightmare journey home I started to read Brick Lane. It is set in Tower Hamlets in the East End of London. This is where Nazneen goes to live from Bangladesh, forced into an arranged marriage. [see BCID 5614499]

The previous weekend I was in Tower Hamlets. I walked along Mile End Road from Stepney to Whitechapel. Mile End Road gets a mention in Brick Lane. [see Anarchist Bookfair 2007]

I did not visit Brighton any more that year. I was tempted the following weekend, to make up for the previous weekend, as the trains were running normally, or as normally as they ever run, but the weather was bad, and then the winter set in.

I did though on my travels manage to find yet more novels by Paulo Coelho, which meant I had a complete set of all his novels. This included finding several hardback copies of The Zahir, the novel the lovely Lithuanian girl I met was so absorbed in reading.

After reading Brick Lane I settled down and read The Zahir. I could see why the lovely Lithuanian girl I met enjoyed it so much. I gave silent thanks for her recommendations, and for introducing me to Paulo Coelho.

No more trips to Brighton that year. I did though manage to fit in a trip down to Swansea for the BeyondTV International Film Festival, where I saw some excellent films and partied on the Friday night. I also, I am pleased to say, found a copy of The Zahir, two copies of The Alchemist, and to my great pleasure, a copy of My Name is Red. [see BeyondTV International Film Festival 2007]

On his blog, Paulo Coelho tells a lovely story involving the 'Japanese Schindler' and a grove of Cedar trees that is an excellent example of synchronicity. [see The grove of cedar trees]

Synchronicity does not occur at equal intervals in time, it happens in short, sharp bursts. It is also concentrated around people and events and locations.

We do not have 'lucky' people. We have people like Santiago who realise their dreams, follow their destiny, heed the omens. People are 'lucky' because they see what lies before them and act accordingly.


Paulo Coelho ~ Synchronicity
(c) Keith Parkins 2007-2008 -- January 2008 rev 11