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

Saturday, August 16, 2014 - 5:56 am

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

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 editor 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 as a member of the Markado trio.

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