Excerpts from The Winner Stands Alone

EXCERPTS FROM THE WINNER STANDS ALONE, Paulo Coelho

P6 Despair can deceive the desperate

P10 they don’t understand. ‘Fashion’ is merely a way of saying: ‘I belong to your world. I’m wearing the same uniform as your army, so don’t shoot.’

P39 People are never satisfied. If they have a little, they want more. If they have a lot, they want still more. Once they have more, they wish they could be happy with little, but are incapable of making the slightest effort in that direction.

P42-43 It was essential….to stand keying in endless texts via SMS. They had all forgotten that these initials mean Short Message Service and instead used the key pad as if it were a typewriter. It was slow, awkward and could cause serious damage to the thumb, but what did it matter?

P46-47 …the puppets feel themselves to be the most privileged and envied people on the planet, until one day, for whatever reason, the puppeteer decides to cut the strings, and the puppets fall down, lifeless and powerless.

P67 People listen and accept because they have no option. The Superclass rules the world; their arguments are subtle, their voices soft, their smiles discreet, but their decisions are final. They know. They accept or reject. They have the power. And power doesn’t negotiate with anyone, only with itself.

P70..she needed to purify her soul and so she turned to the four forces that had always guided her: love, death, power and time. We must love because we are loved by GOD. We must be conscious of death if we are to have a proper understanding of life. We must struggle in order to grow, but without falling into the trap of the power we gain through that struggle, because we know such power is worthless. Finally, we must accept that our eternal soul is, at this moment, caught in the web of time with all its opportunities and its limitations.

P89 That could be a definition of true sophistication: knowing where to find the very best even if other people have never heard of it, and producing the very best too, regardless of what others might say.

P91 You, sir, have a duty to educate your subjects, and I cannot exchange my family’s future for its past.

P105 Look at the Superclass around us. They think they’re so important, so socially aware, because they’re willing to pay a fortune for some useless item at a charity auction or attend a supper organized to raise funds to help the homeless in Rwanda or to save the pandas in China. Pandas and the homeless are all one to them. They feel special, superior to the average person, because they’re doing something useful. Have they ever fought in a war? No. They create wars, but they don’t fight in them. If the war turns out well, they get all the credit. If not, others get the blame. They’re in love with themselves….what he doesn’t say..is that only ten percent of the total amount raised will reach its destination. The rest will be used to pay for this event, for the cost of this supper, for the publicity and the organizers, in short , for the people who had the “brilliant idea” in the first place, and all at an exorbitant price. They use poverty as a way to get even richer.

P128-129 A diamond, or brilliant to give its other name, is as everyone knows, just a piece of coal that has been worked on by heat and time…a diamond is the supreme manifestation of human vanity…what better way of distinguishing the Superclass from the other billions of inhabitants who make up the bottom half of the pyramid?…this pointless industry creates about $50 billion a year, employs a vast army of miners, transporters, private security companies, diamond factories, insurance companies, wholesalers and luxury boutiques. He doesn’t realize that it begins in the mud and has to cross whole rivers of blood before it reaches a shop window.

P129 When he performed a charitable act, he preferred his right hand not to know what his left hand was doing.

P138 She knows people who are proud of their emotional independence, although the truth is they’re as fragile as she is and weep in private and never ask for help…we only acquire some ability to survive alone by the age of nine, whereas a giraffe takes a mere five hours and a bee achieves independence in less than five minutes.

P139 We’ve all heard about an illness in Central Africa called Sleeping sickness. What we should also know is that a similar disease exists that attacks the soul. It’s very dangerous because the early stages often go unnoticed. At the first sign of indifference or lack of enthusiasm, take note! The only preventive against this disease is the realization that the soul suffers, suffers greatly when we force it to live superficially. The soul loves all things beautiful and deep.

P147 ..fashion is, above all, about clothing the body, although it does inevitably reflect a great deal of what’s going on in the soul as well.

P151 ‘Blessed be that which gives your children wings and roots’ says an Arabic proverb. He needed his roots. There is a place in the world where we are born, where we learn our mother tongue and discover how our ancestors overcame the problems they had to face…he needed wings too. They reveal to us the endless horizons of the imagination, they carry us to our dreams and to distant places. It is our wings that allow us to know the roots of our fellow men and learn from them.
Experience has taught me that people only give value to a thing if they have, at some point, been uncertain as to whether or not they’ll get it.

P154 How can we be so arrogant? The planet is, was and always will be stronger than us. We can’t destroy it; if we overstep the mark, the planet will simply erase us from its surface and carry on existing. Why don’t they start talking about not letting the planet destroy us? Because “saving the planet” gives a sense of power, action and nobility. Whereas “not letting the planet destroy us” might lead to feelings of despair and impotence, and to a realization of just how very limited our capabilities are.

P216 If sin achieves something good, it is a virtue, and if virtue is deployed to cause evil, it is a sin.

P227 black is the perfect colour: conservative, mysterious and engraved to the collective unconscious, thanks to all those old cowboy films. The goodies always wear white and all the baddies wear black. Imagine if the White House was called the Black House. Everyone would think it was inhabited by the spirit of darkness.

P253 The trouble with Eichmann was precisely that so many were like him, and that the many were neither perverted nor sadistic, that they were, and still are, terribly and terrifyingly normal. From the viewpoint of our legal institutions and our moral standards of judgement, this normality was much more terrifying than all the atrocities put together.

P258 Talent? Yes, she wants to believe that talent counts too, but knows that really it’s all the result of a game of dice played by the gods, ho choose certain people and place others on the far side of an impassably abyss from where they can only applaud, worship, and when the tide turns against their idols, condemn.

P266-267 the Superclass are as dependent on their success as an addict is on his drugs, and nowhere near as happy as those who want nothing more than a house, a garden, a child playing, a plate of food on the table and a fire in the winter. Are the latter aware of their limitations and do they know that life is short and wonder what point there is in going on? The Superclass tries to promote its values. Ordinary people complain of divine injustice, they envy power, and it pains them to see others having fun. They don’t understand that no one is having fun, that everyone is worried and insecure, and that what the jewels, cars and fat wallets conceal is a huge inferiority complex.

P280-281 A man’s dignity isn’t measured by the people he has around him when he’s at the peak of his success, but by his ability not to forget those who helped him when his need was greatest. Whether those hands were drenched in blood or sweat was irrelevant: if you were clinging to the edge of a precipice, you wouldn’t care who it was hauling you up to safety.

P286 In Cannes…there’s no such thing as friends, only self-interest. There are no human beings, just crazy machines that mow down everything in their path in order to get where they want or else end up ploughing into a lamppost.

P294 He is the assistant and she is the important person, and she’s already beginning to show signs that ‘greatness’ is going to her head. She’ll find out soon enough just what this world is capable of: draining every ounce of her energy, filling her mind with dreams, manipulating her vanity, then discarding her just when she thinks she’s ready for anything. That’s what happened with him and it happens with everyone.

P338 People get lost in the desert because they’re taken in by mirages.

P341 Big promoters know that regardless of how much blood is being spilled in the world right now, people will always prefer photos depicting and ideal and inaccessible life of luxury. Murders can take place next door or out in the street, but parties like this only occur at the very top of society.

P345-346 The definition changes when it comes to religions: for some, death means moving to a higher state, while othersbelieve that it is merely a temporary condition and that the soul inhabiting the body will return later on, either to pay for its sins or to enjoy in the next life the blessings denied it during the previous incarnation.

P360 “When the sea bears away into its depths a single grain of sand, the whole of Europe grows smaller. We didn’t notice, of course. After all, it’s just a grain of sand, but at the very moment the continent is diminished.”

P371 The most important words in any language are the short ones: “Yes”, for example, or “Love” or “God”. They’re all easy to say and fill up the empty spaces of our universe. ….The word “No” has a reputation for being mean, selfish, unspiritual. When we say “Yes”, we think we’re being generous, understanding, polite.
Love can only survive when its free.

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