You must have heard a million times Albert Einstein’s famous thought: There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle. I don’t like it. Probably because miracles haven’t happened to me, or I was too busy being negative to notice them. But I feel that throughout my whole life I have always worked for what I achieved and I have never received anything for granted. Let alone a miracle. Miracles have this unfortunate characteristic of not happening when you most need them. And when (if) they indeed happen, you realize it was a miracle very quite later on. Like the time I met a guy accidentally on the street while reading a book and several months later I had some (un) fortunate relationship with him. But at the time when he asked me whether I liked A Clockwork Orange I didn’t even expect this would turn into some kind of relationship. You may call this a miracle but I realized it might be so quite after that.
Secondly, Einstein’s thought is quite banal and trivial. These quotations never work for me. In my notebook for exquisite thoughts I only write down original, unpopular, unconventional sentences. I never do write the trivial ones because I’ve just heard them way too many times to even notice them. Still, there is one unarguable argument for banal phrases – they are banal because they are sometimes painfully true. So when I received Ivinela Samuilova’s novel Life Can Be a Miracle and I saw Mr. Einstein’s words on it, I felt something boring and trivial was ahead of me, in the style of Bucay or Andrews. However, it was not as bad as expected. Indeed, some parts were worth reading and reflecting upon.
The story is simple. Adi, the heroine (who astonishingly resembles the author herself) has everything in her life – a good job, a loving fiancée, honest friends, and a stable family. She hasn’t experienced any trauma or suffering and she hasn’t endured any sufferings. Her only problem is that she doesn’t know what her vocation is. Similarly, the author has studied religion, economics, administration, PR, journalism, and finally psychologie. Looks like we are dealing here with a confession of how difficult it must be to find a job that suits you. Adi feels something vital and essential for life is missing; her mind is filled with saudade. This is Adi’s favourite Portuguese word, which doesn’t have an equivalent in any language she knows of. It mainly refers to an inexplicable void, to a longing to something that is not there or may not exist, a feeling that something vital is missing. I loved that word. I identified with it. In fact, I read something similar in Nothombs’ The Life of Hunger and ever since this particular expression has become my explanation about what is wrong with me. One red point for Ms. Samuilova.
In order to find her vocation, Adi joins a psychological group with the weird and unconventional Alexei. These psychologists disprove the conventional methods of treatment and insist that Froid was a fool. In other words, you might have had the perfect childhood, the ideal parents, the best friends, and the coolest boyfriend, and still you might be unable to deal with your life. Adi enjoys this explanation and excitedly joins the group to try and find what she is supposed to do.
More or less the novel is predictable and simply written. There are rarely profound and deep investigations, conclusions, or ideas. Most of them we have read in one form or another or we have personally tried and found out they don’t work. The aspect I disliked the most was the concept about miracles. To say it plainly, you can transform anything in your life by writing a letter to the given problem (illness, love issue, work problems, etc) and release it. Adi used this technique upon some of her best friends and it worked immediately. Call me sceptic or cynical but this is never the way the world works. I need a positive book but mostly I need a REALISTICALLY positive book. Not some science-fiction about how happiness is just around the corner and all you need to do is write one f*cking letter.
On the contrary, the idea about “No” is great. We all know (or we should know) that “no” doesn’t work. All psychological books say that you should construct your positive statements avoiding the word “no” because the human mind is constructed in such a way as to avoid it. For example, you shouldn’t say ‘I will not drink beer today’ but instead ‘I will drink only juice today’. The words send positive waves to your brain, which it understands. Samuilova explains this amazingly using the simple example with the squirrel ‘If I tell you not to think about an orange squirrel, what did you just think about? An orange squirrel of course’. This ‘no’ concept also explains why the best way to seduce a woman is to ignore her. Women most of all simply do not get the word ‘NO’!
Samuilova scores another point by explaining with an original metaphor how the way we see the world shapes our life. Basically, she compares our mind to a map. We have a mental map and the world is one big territory. Depending on our map, the territory that will fill it is different. If we offer a positive card we will see that only good things happen to us and vice versa. A more original and interesting way to say that if you expect happiness, that is what you will get and if you only see the worst, the worst will happen to you.
In conclusion, most of Life Can Be a Miracle you have heard a billion times and you will find boring and predictable. However, the books is worth reading for these several passages I mentioned (and maybe a couple more), which offer a different perspective to conventional psychology.