Eleven Minutes – Paulo Coelho

I sincerely love the way Paulo Coelho writes and the way he implicitly shares in all his works that there are things we cannot know and cannot completely understand–like how the meeting of two people can spark a vibrant passion and the meeting of two others spurs nothing at all, while the former two are sweetly set aflame.

This work is raw. I appreciate how Maria is a believable young woman learning about the world and herself in an honest way. She finds herself awakened and refreshed which is a joy to read about.

“really important meetings are planned by the souls long before the bodies see each other.”

This is beautiful and I really wish I believed this; sometimes I do. And I recognize that just because you can’t explain something, that does not necessarily point toward any one conclusion … but I have seen and experienced some rather too serendipitous things in my life… I don’t know.

I also like this book a lot because it reminds me of things I have done and there really was no good reason for them. I just did them. Sometimes there is no explanations for things and I know that I have to work on accepting that. People have all types of motives, whether conscious or unconscious.

“I need to write about love. I need to think and think and write and write about love–otherwise, my soul won’t survive.”

I often feel like this, and I cannot for the life of me explain why, which seemed to be a recurring theme for me throughout my reading of this book. Most people that I know who feel compelled to write anything, whether it’s poetry or prose or something else, have a hard time explaining what drives them to it. I am among those people.

Just the subject matter of this book– a young woman becoming a prostitute in and of itself seems like such a taboo topic, but Coelho writes about it in such a believable and eloquent way, that even extremely conservative people could still appreciate this work, in my opinion.

The last quote is something that I firmly believe:

If I’m looking for true love, I first have to get the mediocre loves out of my system. The little experience of life I’ve had has taught me that no one owns anything, that everything is an illusion–and that applies to material as well as spiritual things. Anyone who has lost something they thought was theirs forever (as has happened often enough to me already) finally comes to realize that nothing really belongs to them.
And if nothing belongs to me, then there’s no point wasting my time looking for things that aren’t mine; it’s best to live as if today were the first (or last) day of my life.

No one owns another person. No matter how obsessed you get or how much you try to control another person. All of those things are just illusions of control. You can’t control another persons soul or thoughts and in that way I think it’s beautiful to learn to love freely. Because that, in and of itself, is freeing. I can love someone without expecting anything in return. It makes everything just that much more precious.

I’m not sure I liked the Terence character. I get exploring the darker side of yourself and your desires, but he seems too stereotypical. I especially appreciate the inclusion of women’s sexual pleasure being explored in this work and how men’s pleasure is a often a “given” while women’s pleasure is assumed to fall by the wayside. I think this is huge. Because in just popular culture and media, it is assumed that sexuality is confined to penetrative sex, while most women get little to no stimulation or pleasure from that— clitoral stimulation becomes ignored because it gives men no instant physical gratification. So I really appreciated the implicit commentary on women’s sexuality and how sexuality in and of itself should not be confined to just intercourse. YES. A thousand times yes. Sexuality does not mean sensuality, there is so much pressure in society to just be “good” at intercourse, whatever that means, and so sensual erotic things that don’t involve that are often cast aside. One of the most erotic scenes in the book, for me at least, involved no sex at all but just Maria and Ralf looking at each other. That’s passion. Sex can be passionate too, but I think people get too wrapped up in expectations that they forget to enjoy each other in the moment… in every way.

Lastly, I am really glad that the book ended the way that it did. Because I am a firm believer that you don’t have to keep things fleeting or dream-like in order to keep them lovely. If you were meant to be with someone, pursuing a relationship with them will not turn your love into monotony. Your relationship will not become dull if they passion between the two of you is real passion and not simply infatuation. You don’t have to leave to have something remain magical. I used to think that in order for something to remain “perfect,” it couldn’t last forever. Well I realized, just as Maria realized, that perfect is unattainable and you can’t and shouldn’t spend your life beating yourself up over things you think you should want. You’ll end up miserable… your heart knows what it wants, even if it doesn’t know why. Working against that will be working yourself into an early grave. That’s not to say completely throw caution to the wind, but to ignore your inner most desires about what feels right to you … would be doing your soul a complete disservice. I was happy that I wasn’t disappointed with the ending of this book, I was seriously worried for a beat.

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