I’m half way through The Winner Stands Alone by Paulo Coelho at the moment (no spoilers, please!) and feel compelled to share a clipping from it. I don’t have much of pertinence to add other than the clipping function on the Kindle is proving to be a wondrous boon for a scatty minded person such as myself. Ebook cynics take note, please.
The clipping is rather simply a list of the various definitions of ‘normal’ one of the characters has encountered over his life. Here it is:
The Winner Stands Alone (Paulo Coelho)
– Highlight on Page 53 | Loc. 883-947
- Normal is anything that makes us forget who we are and what we want; that way we can work in order to produce, reproduce and earn money.
- Setting out rules for waging war (the Geneva Convention).
- Spending years studying at university only to find at the end of it all that you’re unemployable.
- Working from nine till five every day at something that gives you no pleasure at all just so that, after thirty years, you can retire.
- Retiring and discovering that you no longer have enough energy to enjoy life and dying a few years later of sheer boredom.
- Using botox.
- Believing that power is much more important than money and that money is much more important than happiness.
- Making fun of anyone who seeks happiness rather than money and accusing them of ‘lacking ambition’.
- Comparing objects like cars, houses, clothes, and defining life according to those comparisons, instead of trying to discover the real reason for being alive.
- Never talking to strangers. Saying nasty things about the neighbours.
- Believing that your parents are always right.
- Getting married, having children and staying together long after all love has died, saying that it’s for the good of the children (who are, apparently, deaf to the constant rows).
- (A.K.A. 12a) Criticising anyone who tries to be different.
- Waking up each morning to an hysterical alarm clock on the bedside table.
- Believing absolutely everything that appears in print.
- Wearing a scrap of coloured cloth around your neck, even though it serves no useful purpose, but which answers to the name of ‘tie’.
- Never asking a direct question, even though the other person can guess what it is you want to know.
- Keeping a smile on your lips even when you’re on the verge of tears. Feeling sorry for those who show their feelings.
- Believing that art is either worth a fortune or worth nothing at all.
- Despising anything that was easy to achieve because if no sacrifice was involved, it obviously isn’t worth having.
- Following fashion trends, however ridiculous or uncomfortable.
- Believing that all famous people have tons of money saved up.
- Investing a lot of time and money in external beauty and caring little about inner beauty.
- Using every means possible to show that, although you’re just an ordinary human being, you’re far above other mortals.
- Never looking anyone in the eye when you’re travelling on public transport, in case it’s interpreted as a sign you’re trying to get off with them.
- Standing facing the door in a lift and pretending you’re the only person there, regardless of how crowded it is.
- Never laughing too loudly in a restaurant however good the joke.
- In the northern hemisphere, always dressing according to the season: bare arms in Spring (however cold it is) and woollen jacket in Autumn (however hot it is).
- In the southern hemisphere, covering the Christmas tree with fake snow even though winter has nothing to do with the birth of Christ.
- Assuming, as you grow older, that you’re the guardian of the world’s wisdom, even if you haven’t necessarily lived enough to know what’s right and wrong.
- Going to a charity tea party and thinking that you’ve done your bit towards putting an end to social inequality in the world.
- Eating three times a day even if you’re not hungry.
- Believing that other people are always better than you -better looking, more capable, richer, more intelligent – and that it’s very dangerous to step outside your own limits, so it’s best to do nothing
- Using your car as a weapon and as impenetrable armour.
- Swearing when in heavy traffic.
- Believing that everything your child does wrong is entirely down to the company he or she keeps.
- Marrying the first person who offers you a decent position in society. Love can wait.
- Always saying ‘I tried’ when you didn’t really try at all.
- Postponing doing the really interesting things in life for later, when you won’t have the energy.
- Avoiding depression with large daily doses of television.
- Believing that you can be sure of everything you’ve achieved.
- Assuming that women don’t like football and that men aren’t interested in home decoration and cooking.
- Blaming the government for all the bad things that happen.
- Thinking that being a good, decent, respectable person will mean that others will see you as weak, vulnerable and easy to manipulate.
- Being equally convinced that aggression and rudeness are synonymous with having a ‘powerful personality’.
- Being afraid of having an endoscopy (if you’re a man) and giving birth (if you’re a woman).
A passing thought from a little bit later on in the book, which also seems relevant:
‘Since time immemorial, men have believed that being close to something unattainable and mysterious can bring blessings.