The act of doing something ‘good’ can be defined as something virtuous, kind, sincere, courageous, quality, nice, or beneficial. This can be agreed upon by our collective society, as well as Webster’s dictionary. Why do people do good deeds? Is it simply out of the sheer goodness of their hearts? Is it because society tells us to ‘do the right thing’? Or, do people do good things to avoid being labeled as the disrespected alternative: bad. Paulo Coelho, author of the international best seller “The Alchemist” searches deep within the human soul to define ‘goodness’ down to its bare root.
In “The Devil and Miss Prym”, Coelho introduces a shady character (“The Stranger”) who enters into a small town to stir up trouble. The character, haunted by the terrible grief of his past, losing his family to the hands of terrorists, is determined to see if there truly is ever such a thing as pure goodness, or do people simply perform good deeds to avoid the evil that resides within every human soul. Old Berta, a widow who passes her days watching the small village, stays quiet and removed from the town. She has the ability to see ghosts, which is why many people accuse her of being a witch. As Old Berta is gazing over the village one day, she sees a man approaching the town. This man, The Stranger, is not travelling alone. Unbeknownst to him, he has another thing accompanying him that only Old Berta can see: the devil.
As the readers journey through the book, they also meet Miss Prym, a young woman who is bored with the little village, and has been looking for her ticket out of there! The Stranger shows Miss Prym 11 gold bars, and tells her that they will be given to the village if they kill someone. Conflicted with this situation, Miss Prym eventually tells the village people about the gold bars. In fear of being killed themselves, the village people come to a mutual agreement that Old Berta will be the one to be killed, since she is already old and widowed, and not much use to the village anymore. As the people gather around a sedated Old Berta to shoot her, Miss Prym steps in and decides that there is no justified reason for killing her, and that all humans have a choice and set of control over all their own actions. The Stranger has been shown that there may still be goodness in the world after all.
This book is a wonderful wake-up call for anyone in need of more self-exploration. Why do we do the things we do? Are we happy with who we are and the decisions we make on a daily basis? Where do we see ourselves headed over the next few years with the decisions we continue to make in the present? For every action someone makes, there is a consequence (which could be good or bad). One way to gain intrapersonal skills is to examine the mind and heart. Does one think one thing and then do another? If so, the body is out of tune, and there should be something done to bring the mind and spirit back to its homeostasis. Without this inner balance, there is conflict, turmoil, guilt, confusion, sadness, anger, mistakes made, and consequences to be paid. I encourage you to read this book if you find yourself at a difficult point in your life. The key to happiness is having balance and a healthy control over your decisions and emotions. I challenge you to strip down the definitions of good and evil. Then ask yourself why you think, so, say, and feel the things you do. If you do not have the answer, begin to seek. This will bring great peace and harmony into your life and may also help you to understand others as well! After all, if we do not understand ourselves and one another, then who will?
Good luck on your personal journey!