The Alchemist

Near the beginning of the school year, Ms. Kane, my guide, passed a book on to me titled The Alchemist written by Paulo Coelho. Throughout my first semester at Kansas State, I slowly made my way through the novel, and I find it hard to believe that it took a whole semester to read the short book. Now if you are anything like me, you are probably scanning the web right trying to define the word “alchemist,” do not worry, it took me an entire college semester to learn what an alchemist is, thanks to Coelho. After finishing the novel, I realized that Coelho’s words broadened my view on the impact that “love” creates on those individuals around us.

Throughout the novel, the main character embarks on a journey to fulfill his Personal Legend and along the way encounters multiple personal development experiences. Toward the end of the novel, the character begins to mentally piece together his learning experiences to define love and alchemist. Coelho defines love as: “the force that transforms and improves the Soul of the World,” and states, “when we love, we always strive to become better than we are.” This definition sent me into deeper thought, making me wonder if what I love helps improve the world? Am I spending my time loving things that do not provide benefit to the world around me and instead simply preoccupy my time with momentary pleasure? And to build off Coelho’s theme for love, do my loves push me to better myself?

Thinking more on the topic, I began to categorize my loves into two different types: alchemistic love and individual love. My loves that fall under alchemistic love are the activities that I not only enjoy but also make a positive impact on the world around me, while the individual loves simply bring myself pleasure. I noticed a correlation that my alchemistic loves are more commonly the things that I enjoy doing but require more effort or commitment from myself, so I find myself not doing them as often as my individual loves. This correlation led me to realize that I need to spend more time focusing on my alchemistic loves to fulfill Coelho’s definition by using my loves to create a better world. Once I begin to focus myself on those loves, I would be able to consider myself an Alchemist in Coelho’s eyes.

“That’s what Alchemists do. They show that, when we strive to become better than we are, everything around us becomes better, too.” After over four months of trying to pick apart the definition of an alchemist, Coelho’s definition came across clear: one whom unintentionally improves the world by seeking self-improvement through prioritizing their alchemistic loves.

In the novel, Coelho makes it known that Alchemists are found few and far in between, yet sheds glory on those that are there. This is seen in my every day life, as the number of true Alchemists that I can name seems to be low; although, the Alchemists I can think of are individuals who are truly making a difference in the lives of those around them, such as the members of the Wichita Southeast FFA Chapter. I have had the opportunity to interact with Ms. Farmer, the advisor, and members of the Wichita Southeast FFA Chapter over the past few months and hear about the projects that this new chapter is embarking on with the community. They have recently accepted nearly $5,000 in grants from National FFA, the Wichita Community Foundation, and various other organizations to construct a Koi pond, seating area, and community garden on the newly constructed Wichita Southeast campus. These FFA members are truly developing into Alchemists by using their passions for improving their community to not only grow as individuals, but to also connect their community through civic camaraderie.

The Alchemist has encouraged me to focus more on my alchemistic loves in life to not only improve myself, but also others around me. What alchemistic loves can you identify in your life? Are you prioritizing your time toward these loves, or is your time being distracted by other individual loves? As Coelho implied it: many yearn to become an alchemist, yet few are self-aware enough to identify their alchemistic loves to truly become an alchemist. Where are you?

The aspiring Alchemist,
Riley Sleichter