The Power of the Word by Paulo Coelho
Paulo Coelho (Portuguese: [ˈpawlu kuˈeʎu]), born August 24, 1947) is considered one of the most influential authors of our times. He is most widely read and his books have sold more than 225 million copies worldwide, have been released in 170 countries and been translated into 81 languages. He was born in Rio de Janeiro in 1947 and discovered early his vocation for writing. He worked as a director, theater actor, composer and journalist. His collaboration with Brazilian composer and singer Raul Seixas gave some of the greatest classic rock songs in Brazil. He has received numerous prestigious international awards amongst them the Crystal Award by the World Economic Forum. He has been a member of the Academy of Letters of Brazil since 2002, and in 2007 he was proclaimed Messenger of Peace by the United Nations. Paulo is the writer with the highest number of social media followers and is the all-time bestselling Portuguese language author.
Text © Paulo Coelho
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Destroying your neighbour
Malba Tahan illustrates the dangers of the word:
A woman claimed again and again that her neighbour was a thief, and, in the end, the young man was arrested. Days later, he was discovered to be innocent; the boy was released, and the woman was sent to court.
‘Words never hurt anyone,’ she told the judge.
‘I see,’ replied the judge. ‘Today, when you go home, write down on a sheet of paper all the bad things you said about that young man; then tear the paper up and scatter the pieces along the road. Come back tomorrow to hear the sentence.’
The woman obeyed and returned the following day.
‘You will be forgiven if you can produce all the pieces of paper that you scattered yesterday. Otherwise, you will be sentenced to one year in prison,’ declared the judge.
‘But that’s impossible! The wind has scattered them!’
‘Precisely! Just as a simple remark can be scattered by the wind and thus destroy a man’s reputation; and, by then, it’s too late to repair the damage done.’
And he sent the woman to prison.
A legend from the North Pole
According to an Eskimo legend, at the dawn of the world, there was no difference between men and animals; all creatures lived in harmony on the face of the Earth, and any creature could transform itself into any other creature in order to gain greater mutual understanding. Men turned into fish, fish turned into men, and they all spoke the same language.
‘At the time,’ the legend goes on, ‘words were magical, and the spiritual world was lavish in its blessings. A chance remark could have strange consequences; you had only to express a wish for that wish to be fulfilled.
Then the creatures began to abuse this power. Confusion reigned and wisdom was lost.
Words, however, continue to be magical, and wisdom still gives the gift of performing miracles to all those who respect it.’
A man was selling oranges in the street. He was illiterate and so never read the newspapers. He merely put out a few signs along the road and spent the day proclaiming the excellence of his merchandise.
Everyone bought from him, and the man prospered. He invested the money he earned in more signs and went on to sell more fruit. Business was booming when he had a visit from his son, who had been educated and had studied in the big city.
‘Brazil is in desperate straits, Pa. The economy’s in a terrible state!’
Worried, the man reduced the number of signs and started re-selling inferior goods because they were cheaper. Sales plummeted.
‘My son’s right,’ he thought. ‘These are indeed difficult times.’
The instruction manual
After buying a new machine for peeling vegetables, a woman carefully read the instruction manual, but still could not get the machine to work. In the end, she had to give up, leaving the various machine parts scattered about the table.
She went to the market and returned to find that the maid had put the machine together.
‘How did you manage that?’ she asked in some surprise.
‘Well, since I don’t know how to read, I had to use my head,’ came the reply.
© Paulo Coelho