Saturday, April 26, 2008
The Fifth Mountain is a timely story by Paulo Coelho in a world recurrently persecuted because of seemingly futile faith. People across the globe suffer for upholding beliefs that seem not to pay anyway: advocates of peace are confronted by wars, whether virtual or civil, which wreak havoc, presently, with a global magnitude; technological promise of food revolution is mocked by widespread hunger and varying threats of biochemical infestation; escalated modernity in science and technology that instead of addressing the needs of the populace, becomes a tool to perpetrate evil intents (i.e. computer viruses) or aggravates the human condition (ozone-unfriendly CFC-emitting air conditioning and refrigeration units). Social injustices prevail elsewhere, however man remains faithful while struggling for his life’s betterment. Even worse, he is roundly derided, cursed, or beaten up for harboring what existentialists balk as “delusions” of realizing things in the face of impossibility.
The novel’s retelling of Elijah’s tested faith under exacerbating circumstances can be a collective voice of the few who have opted to cling on to unwavering conviction that things shall turn up roses. True, the world and life at-large are nasty with their treatment of human beings; nonetheless, the few that count still probe the skies for stars, and that is more than enough testament that their essence comes long way before existence—God’s love, not God’s blunder or joke, made way for the Creation of Man. Lest they forget, the persecutions they experience are only earth-bound, and since they are a Bible-believing bunch, they should “be glad and joyful, for a great reward is kept for you in God (Matthew 5:12).” Life is a struggle of challenges and sufferings, and sticking around is an essence of living. By staying alive, the faithful can always wield their desires no matter what, whether this desire is simply passing a quiz or is comparable to the proportions of Elijah’s sacrificial fire and heaven-sent rain. A workable faith is never pointless; The Fifth Mountain itself can be a symbol—and at this point, Coelho realizes his purpose—for a renewed faith that refuses to give up because God wills it so.
There are several highlights of the story, but two stand out from among the rest: Elijah’s hike into the gods-inhabited Fifth Mountain as a punishment for the misfortune he allegedly brought along in Akbar, and Elijah’s turn to call on God to rain heaven’s fire as a precursor of the drought-ending rain. In the former, Elijah communicated with the angel of the Lord, who conveyed God’s instruction for Elijah to invoke the widow’s dead boy to return to life, a scene teeming with the idea that God never abandons the faithful. In the latter, Elijah prayed to God for heaven’s fire, which descended to roast his sacrifice, a scene that resolves that faith produces awesome results.
Of the characters in the story, Elijah made the most impact to me because of his unwavering faith against a series of tribulations. He was persecuted throughout the novel all because he would not drop his faith. While his faith swept high and low, from the time he faced death in the arrow of Jezebel’s soldier to the duel against Baal’s prophets, never was when he lost it altogether. I believe that I can be taken for a person like Elijah, because like him, I am confronted by challenges of sort, but they are not too grave to be unbearable. Even as I get invariably criticized for my attempts, for instance, to employ words in extraordinary ways during essay writing, I still persist, grasping on the faith that someday, somehow, I will be able to resort to career in writing perhaps.
Paulo Coelho’s legend-like style of storytelling gives The Fifth Mountain, among his other works like The Alchemist, a touch of fable; only this time, he blends the human element with the divine in the historical context of the Bible. As a powerful storyteller, he enthralls his readers into becoming a first-account witness right where the delicately depicted scenes are unfolding. Because of the inherent moving-canvas quality of the novel, I believe that the story is worth the reading time of prospective audience, not only for the authorial perspective’s fantastic retelling of a strong faith amid a tumultuous Biblical period, but also for the perfect timing it is to be read by a world whose faith needs strengthening.