No one can go back, but everyone can go forward.
And tomorrow, when the sun rises, all you have to say to yourselves is:
I am going to think of this year as the first year of my life.
I will look on the members of my family with surprise and amazement, glad to discover that they are by my side, silently sharing that much-talked-about, but little understood thing called love.
I will pass a beggar, who will ask me for money. I might give it to him or I might walk past thinking that he will only spend it on drink, and as I do, I will hear his insults and know that it is simply his way of communicating with me.
I will pass someone trying to destroy a bridge. I might try to stop him or I might realise that he is doing it because he has no one waiting for him on the other side and this is his way of trying to fend off his own loneliness.
I will look at everything and everyone as if for the first time, especially the small things that I have grown used to, quite forgetting the magic surrounding them. The desert sands, for example, which are moved by an energy I cannot understand – because I cannot see the wind.
Instead of noting down things I’m unlikely to forget on the notebook I always carry with me, I will write a poem. Even if I have never written one before and even if I never do so again, I will at least know that I once had the courage to put my feelings into words.
When I reach a small village that I know well, I will enter it by a different route. I will be smiling, and the inhabitants will say to each other: ‘He must be mad, because war and destruction have left the soil barren.’
But I will keep smiling, because it pleases me to know that they think I am mad. My smile is my way of saying: ‘You can destroy my body, but not my soul.’
Tonight, before leaving, I’m going to spend time sorting through the pile of things I never had the patience to put in order. And I will find that a little of my history is there.
All the letters, the notes, cuttings and receipts will take on their own life and have strange stories to tell me – about the past and about the future. All the different things in the world, all the roads travelled, all the entrances and exits of my life.
I am going to put on a shirt I often wear and, for the first time, I am going to notice how it was made. I am going to imagine the hands that wove the cotton and the river where the fibres of the plant were born. I will understand that all those now invisible things are a part of the history of my shirt.
And even the things I am accustomed to – like the sandals which, after long use, have become an extension of my feet – will be clothed in the mystery of discovery.
Since I am heading off into the future, I will be helped by the scuff marks left on my sandals from when I stumbled in the past.
May everything my hand touches and my eyes see and my mouth tastes be different, but the same. That way, all those things will cease to be a still life and instead will explain to me why they have been with me for such a long time; and they will reveal to me the miracle of re-encountering emotions worn smooth by routine.
Taken from Paulo Coelho’s book THE MANUSCRIPT FOUND IN ACCRA