“No matter what he does, every person on earth plays a central role in the history of the world. And normally he doesn’t know it.”
― Paulo Coelho, The Alchemist
Recently I spent some time to again read Coelho’s story of an Andalusian shepherd boy’s quest for treasure: it’s a simple but profound story. Santiago’s journey centers around his Personal Legend, but he also comes to know that he is part of a larger story God has written. As we all are.
When I was in grade school our teachers took pains to teach us legible handwriting, a skill that isn’t necessarily being taught today. But handwriting is not the only way our life is told. Our unique way of being is evident in the objects we use to decorate our homes, the photos we keep. It is revealed in the places we go, the friends we spend time with, the books we read, even the searches we enter in Google. Our origins and patterns are in our genetic code. Our life paths leave unique traces of which we are only beginning to be aware.
Over the ages, human nature has been surprisingly consistent. It’s important to know the legends of those who lived before us. Ancient plotlines reveal precedents that echo in modern-day settings. Mark Twain once said “History doesn’t repeat itself, but it often rhymes.”
The word legend comes from the French, meaning “what is to be read.” Legend also describes a symbolic code which is the key to understanding a map; it allows us to read and navigate a terrain that includes both natural and cultural landmarks. Human nature exists bound up in Nature, and so we must learn to understand our world as our indigenous peoples read the landscape around them.
God is in Holy Scripture, but He is certainly not limited to it. He continues to speak that Word into our lives today, so that we can courageously meet with both opportunity and challenge. When God’s ways and God’s stories are written on our hearts we will also create legends in and of our time.
In a land where there are no musicians;
In a land where there are no storytellers, teachers, and poets;
In a land where there are no men and women of vision and leadership;
In a land where there are no legends, saints, and champions;
In a land where there are no dreamers,
The people will most certainly perish.
But you and I, we are the music makers;
We are the storytellers, teachers, and poets;
We are the men and women of vision and leadership;
We are the legends, the saints, and the champions;
And we are the dreamers of the dreams.”