By the River Piedra I Sat Down And Wept

By Paulo Coelho

I read this passage some years ago. But recently, it brought to me an entirely different meaning. I am learning about the function of the human brain, and the phenomenon of memory fascinates me.

Please read, and I will return to my crazy idea in the next post.

“A scientist who studied monkeys on an island in Indonesia was able to teach a certain one to wash bananas in the river before eating them. Cleansed of sand and dirt, the food was more flavorful. The scientist who did this only because he was studying the learning capacity of monkeys did not imagine what would eventually happen. So he was surprised to see that the other monkeys on the island began to imitate the first one. “And then, one day, when a certain number of monkeys had learned to wash their bananas, the monkeys on all the other islands in the archipelago began to do the same thing. What was most surprising, though, was that the other monkeys learned to do so without having had any contact with the island where the experiment had been conducted.” He stopped. “Do you understand?” “No,” I answered. “There are several similar scientific studies. The most common explanation is that when a certain number of people evolve, the entire human race begins to evolve. We don’t know how many people are needed, but we know that’s how it works.”

Paulo Coelho is a colorful personality. Born in Brazil, initially schooled by Jesuits, later committed by his parents to a mental institution. He became a hippie and traveled the world. Returned to Brazil and got arrested for his political views. Coelho was tortured, then released. Worked as an actor, journalist, theater director and finally became a writer. His writings are seen as incompatible with a Catholic faith in which his family raised him. He even planned to write a book with Kobe Bryant before the athlete’s tragic death.

Coelho’s writings are seen as mystic, superficial, and often weird. But the topics he touches are fascinating.

The excerpt is taken from the book By the River Piedra I sat Down and Wept. It brings back The Hundredth Monkey Effect. But for me, it’s more than that.

More about it in my next post.


  • Fascinating. A person can be diagnosed as crazy by one authority and then time may reveal his genius. On the other hand the reverse can also be true as evidenced in politics and media. Ha!

  • It is indeed fascinating. I glad to see that metafore can express more then simple words.Teresa


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