Connecting Through Compassion: Paulo Coelho Recalls Krista's TED Talk

Saturday, August 16, 2014 - 5:56am
Photo by Miguel Riopa

Connecting Through Compassion: Paulo Coelho Recalls Krista's TED Talk

by Mariah Helgeson (@mariahism),  associate producer

During our interview with Paulo Coelho, the author of The Alchemist surprised us with his recollections of Krista's 2010 TED talk at the United Nations, "Reconnecting with Compassion."

He first mentions her talk briefly at the very beginning of the unedited interview:

Paulo Coelho: I was watching you on TED. Beautiful, beautiful talk about compassion and tolerance.

Krista Tippett: Thank you so much. That means a lot to me.

Coelho then mentions it once again midway through the conversation. When asked about the driving question behind his writing, he expounds on the virtues of compassion and tolerance:

Ms. Tippett: So something that has intrigued me in my life of conversation — and I think it seems like a paradox — that when someone is able to be most particular, articulate about their life that in those moments, what they say can be most universally heard and felt. And it seems to me that this paradox is very central to your life of writing, and even your success as a writer — the reach of your writing. You’ve said that the driving question behind all of your writing is “who am I? Who is Paulo Coelho?”

Mr. Coelho: Yes, which is a very tricky question. Right?

Ms. Tippett: Yeah.

Mr. Coelho: Well, I’m going to divide this question in two. The first one is I saw you talking about tolerance and compassion.

Mr. Coelho: Which is very important. Ah?

Ms. Tippett: At the — my TED talk.

Mr. Coelho: And I saw you — I saw you saying that sometimes compassion is understood like being awake, and being unable to react. So every morning, I find myself a different person. I’m always a mystery to myself. If I knew in the first hours of the morning, what I’m going to do, what is going to happen, what attitude or decision should I take? I think my life would be deadly boring because, well, what makes life interesting is the unknown. It is the risks that we take every single moment of our day — of a single day. So, I think that this contradiction should be accepted. Having said that, I mean that learning how to live with our contradictions does not keep us away from the ethic and respecting our neighbor, and learning about tolerance, and learning about compassion. These are two very important words today that were totally forgotten. If you have tolerance and compassion, you can go to the battle, in the metaphoric sense of course, fighting for your dreams without harming anyone.

Ms. Tippett: So, you experience and, in some way, embody this reality that as we wrestle with our contradictions and the hard things that life brings to each of us, those are the breeding grounds of compassion towards others. That that wrestling, in fact, becomes a breeding ground for compassion.

Mr. Coelho: Yeah. At least for me. At least for me, yes, the answer is yes.

You can listen again to Krista's talk here:

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Mariah Helgeson is an associate producer at On Being. She earned a degree in International Affairs with concentrations in the Middle East and Conflict Resolution from George Washington University. She grew up in Minnesota and was a program associate at the Sustained Dialogue Campus Network. When she’s not submerged in a good book she might be found laughing with her teenage sisters or playing chamber music.

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I absolutely LOVED the interview with Paulo Coelho and I found myself going back and listening to it over again, writing down things he said and thinking deeply about his work and the deeper meaning of his words. I am someone who believes in love and thinks about love almost non-stop. I am searching for love, have found it a few times but have seen it go away, too. I want it back and I want it to stay. More than anything in my life, I want love and I want to share the love I have with someone else. In "The Alchemist", Paulo Coelho writes this: "When you really want something to happen, the whole world conspires to help you achieve it." I find a lot of hope in that statement, but during the interview, he expanded on it in a personal sense, talking about his perseverance of getting his book published because he knew it's power. Do you think his sentiment of the universe conspiring in our favor if we really want something to happen is true in finding love? I hope so.