“You have two choices:
to control your mind,
or to let your mind control
– Veronika Decides to Die
Veronika Decides to Die by Paulo Coelho is one of my very favourite novels of all time. All of Paulo Coelho’s books fall under that category, but this one is top of the list. I have a lot to say about this book, about the plot, and about how it affected my life and my recovery from depression.
On one of the many days that I could not drag myself out of bed, and could not stop my own tears, and felt all alone in the world, I found the audio version of this book. I listened to it over and over. I cried. I listened. I cried. I wanted to die. I cried. I listened. I sat in my bed and thought about the ending. I thought about giving life another chance. I thought that maybe there would never be another Edward in my story, but maybe one day if I live long enough I will meet Paulo Coelho. The man who writes about suicide attempts and wanting to die, and amazing journeys, and being a Warrior of Light. A man who makes me feel a little less alone in the world. I thought, maybe one day I could be someone he would want to meet. Maybe I could be a Warrior of Light. Maybe I could write about wanting to die and not giving up, and maybe I could help someone feel a little less alone. Maybe it would be worth it, to live with all the suffering.
The movie version was a lot different than the book, and it would not have had quite the same effect as the book, but I do cherish this quote and it is in both the movie and the book.
For some context, here is an excerpt from the book:
He [the Sufi Master] told everyone to concentrate on the rose and to empty their minds.
“The thoughts will come back, but try to push them to one side. You have two choices: to control your mind or to let your mind control you. You’re already familiar with the latter experience, allowing yourself to be swept along by fears, neuroses, insecurity, for we all have self-destructive tendencies.
“Don’t confuse insanity with a loss of control. Remember that in the Sufi tradition, the master – Nasrudin – is the one everyone calls the madman. And it is precisely because his fellow citizens consider him insane that Nasrudin can say whatever he thinks and do whatever he wants. So it was with court jesters in the Middle Ages; they could alert the king to dangers that the ministers would not dare to comment on because they were afraid of losing their positions.
“That’s how it should be with you; stay insane, but behave like normal people. Run the risk of being different, but learn to do so without attracting attention. Concentrate on this flower and allow the real “I” to reveal itself.”
“What is the real “I”?” asked Veronika. Perhaps everyone else there knew, but what did it matter. She must learn to care less about annoying others.
The man seemed surprised by the interruption, but he answered her question.
“It’s what you are, not what others make of you.”