Sunday, September 18, 2005

Love and sex according to the gospel of Paulo Coelho

Love and sex according to the gospel of Paulo Coelho
By Maria Eleanor Elape Valeros
The Freeman 09/12/2005

Jeserie, a bookworm buddy of mine, handed me a copy of "Eleven Minutes", a gripping and daring novel from the international bestselling author of "The Alchemist" - Paulo Coelho. His works reaped raving reviews on his style of exploring sensitively the sacred nature of sex and love as he invites us, readers, to confront our prejudices and demons.

Jeserie is a big Coelho fan having read his other books like "Veronica Decides To Die" and "The Alchemist". She is just as knowledgeable about the many facets of life, just like this Brazilian author, having survived the squalor of what she recalled as "a painful, disturbing past." Her faith is anchored on the reality of a Divine Providence, a spiritual understanding rubbed on to her by a deeply religious mother. Driven to run through the dark leg of this race called life, she emerged from the turbulence of her world with this euphoric feeling experienced by people who have gone through the rigid course of survival. True love is elusive, she said. The very reason she holds on to Coelho is the fact that she deems it a tool, a coping mechanism to hold on to sanity. This reminds me of my own experiments with truth about life, love and, yes sex. The many fine points about these I had considered, including the social and economic forces that shape marriage and family patterns, slowly making life complicated. The kind of society I grew up in thought of love as something beyond definition, an abstract not perceived by all the senses. This society also embraced the idea of earthly pain as an access to heavenly gain (read: martyrdom and flagellation!) and treated sex as the dirtiest, meanest, wicked-est topic when the subject brushes the carnal appetite that can never be filled, giving man a kind of thirst that's unquenchable. After romancing with Eleven Minutes, Jeserie agreed to spend overnight with me on a camp-out up there at Tops in barangay Busay, with this awesome sweeping view of city lights and teeth-chattering cold winds that could freeze the living daylights out of you. I cajoled her to come with me to the right place for one to pour her soul out, and talk on how we feel about love and sex according to the gospel of Paulo Coelho, an inspiration in these contemporary times. For eleven hours, we just talked of the fine points that support the notion that human beings are biologically programmed to be pair-bonders. Well, most of us are monogamous - that is, we seem to prefer sharing life with one partner over a long period of time. True, some persons seem to go through a period of sexual experimentation during childhood and adolescence, but upon maturity, a lot of us are most comfortable and happy if we are fortunate enough to find one partner with whom we fall in love and form a lasting, mutually caring, and secure love relationship. Jeserie and I sat atop the wall of this viewing deck at Tops and cheered at how good it feels to be communicative and share with that probable partner the many contents of our heart, our mind, our soul and be reciprocated! And we giggled at the topic of sex within the context of such a mature, intimate love relationship that we felt is the most beautiful experience. Maybe the next best thing to some messianic promise of eternal redemption. Coelho has become one of the most widely read authors and recipient of numerous prestigious international awards, among them the Crystal Award by the World Economic Forum and France's Legion d'Honneur. He was inducted at the Brazilian Academy of Letters in 2002 and writes a weekly column syndicated throughout the world. Why has he been so good at weaving threads of words full of hope in life and love when he was deprived of such back then? Who would even think he would be able to touch races and cultures allowing "his soul to arrive before himself, his books present in almost all key cities in the world, finding old friends in the people he had never met before, and did not feel like a stranger in a foreign land" when he was once confined inside walls of a mental hospital for his eccentric views about life? Why would he be an authority in understanding our passions and in confronting our prejudices when he was just out there at a corner of Brazil fretting at his vertiginous writing career. Eleven Minutes is about Maria, a young girl from a Brazilian village. Maria's first innocent brushes with love left her heartbroken, convincing her at a tender age that "love is a terrible thing that will make you suffer." An opportunity in Rio de Janeiro took her to Geneva in Switzerland where she dreamt of finding fame and fortune only to end up working as a prostitute. Drifting farther and farther away from love, she developed a fascination for sex. But her despairing view of love was brought up to the test as she was destined to meet a handsome young painter and had to choose between pursuing a path of darkness - sexual pleasure for its own sake - or risking everything to find her own "inner light" and the possibility of "sacred" sex in the context of love. Jeserie handed over to me the book with a twinkle in her eyes. I know that Coelho tells people what they want to hear - vagina, penis, masturbation, orgasm. This is the secret of his success that's now revealed to the world. He tells them what they wish for but never thought possible could ever be probable. Jeserie said I would really appreciate the book because the character mirrors the way I think about love, sex and men and that in some way I also subscribe to the idea that there is a "real life" after professing sexual freedom or sexual revolution. Coelho talks about love and sex and anything about love and sex is always appealing to the senses, the subject always good. "When we meet someone and fall in love, we have a sense that the whole universe is on our side. I saw this happen today as the sun went down," says Coelho through his chosen character to speak his message, the prostitute Maria. "And yet if something goes wrong, there is nothing left! No herons, no distant music, not even the taste of my man's lips. How is it possible for the beauty that was there only minutes before to vanish so quickly? Life moves very fast. It rushes us from heaven to hell in a matter of seconds." "Although my aim is to understand love, and although I suffer to think of the people to whom I gave my heart, I see that those who touched my heart failed to arouse my body, and that those who aroused my body failed to touch my heart," Maria scribbled in her diary. It has been said that when you're in love, your perceptions change. You tend to undervalue yourself and to overvalue your lover. You see your lover as the most wonderful, marvelous, beautiful, attractive, special person in the world. When in his presence you feel strong emotion - you are high. And sex is incredible when you are in love. All that advice about long foreplay is nonsense. Recently, the Internet placed too much emphasis on genitals. The mechanics of sex are important, of course, but that is the easy part of romance. The capacity for caring, intimacy and love, which is more difficult to achieve, is a far more significant element of our lives. This medical view of sex therapist Helen Kaplan-Singer finds an affirmation in the works of Coelho penned in layman's terms. Coelho believes so much in love. After the strong winds of confusion whiffed through strands of our already topsy-turvy ideas, Jeserie and I were left with the conviction that neither of us should be cynical about love. Love continues to be the fifth element - the central theme of songs and movies. Coelho went on to, I say, profess and not preach that "like everyone else - and in this case I have no qualms about generalizing - it took me a long time to discover the sacred nature of sex. My youth coincided with an age of enormous freedom, great discoveries and many excesses, which was followed by a period of conservatism and repression - the price to be paid for extremes that brought with them some very harsh consequences indeed. And to write about the sacred nature of sex, it was necessary to understand why it had been so profaned." Eleven Minutes deals with a subject that is harsh, difficult, shocking. It talks about things that concern us all and not only about what everyone would like to hear. Some books make us dream, others bring us face to face with reality. What matters most to the author, however, is the honesty with which a book is written. Coelho, through his Eleven Minutes, has always been honest in delving into matters of love and sex. There may be repressions, rejections, but we can never be cynical about love. And sexual pleasure? Sex includes a sense of need and visual delight, memories, and perhaps the auditory stimulus of laughter and moans. All these factors work together to produce sexual pleasure. This guiding principle used by other authors on love, sex and reproduction - Dr. Paul Brand and Philip Yancey - was again affirmed in Coelho's works. We might fret at how this society we grew up with has confined us to believing in only one definition of love, feeding us with a programmed and/or structured perception about life, love and sex, but it is a burning truth that love is the principle of existence and its only end. What do you know about life, love and sex? Crank up my addy:"> For readings on Coelho, let's have a session at Tops in barangay Busay every Saturday evening. You may bring your own tents, or I can share mine with you. BYOP or you may bring extra cash as food is available in their mini canteen, aside from entrance and motorcycle-for-hire fees. Calling all Eleanors in the world, let's form CLUB ELEANOR. Reach me at 09215323616 or post a note at my addy. Celebrate life! It is too short to be miserable!