The Englishman tells Santiago about the philosopher's stone, a small emerald tablet that is believed to contain all the secrets of the world inscribed within it. What might be ironic about this stone?

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The irony of the Philosopher's Stone is that it makes people unable to see the forest for the trees. Like the Englishman in The Alchemist, they're too busy seeking the impossible—all the world's secrets—to achieve the possible, to achieve their own Personal Legends.

Santiago sets off on a quest...

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The irony of the Philosopher's Stone is that it makes people unable to see the forest for the trees. Like the Englishman in The Alchemist, they're too busy seeking the impossible—all the world's secrets—to achieve the possible, to achieve their own Personal Legends.

Santiago sets off on a quest whose chances of success are far from certain. But at least his Personal Legend is always potentially in his grasp; this is not some wild goose chase that he's involved with here. His goals in life, though difficult to attain, are nonetheless realistic. The Philosopher's Stone, however, is a chimera which distracts people from pursuing their goals.

The Englishman has devoted his whole life to something he read about in a book. As such, he's trapped in a world of fantasy which will prevent him from achieving something tangible, something concrete. He seeks knowledge of all the secrets of the world. But the thing he needs to know most of all is right under his nose: his Personal Legend and how to go about achieving it.

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The irony of the coveted philosopher's stone is that many people dedicate their whole lives in pursuit of it and never find it. As a result, they may miss out on discovering their own Personal Legend, or what they were truly meant to be or to achieve. According to legend, the philosopher's stone, which is also known as the emerald stone, has the power to heal, purify, and with only a sliver of it, one can turn metal into gold. However, those in search of an actual stone may be disappointed. The philosopher's stone is also metaphor, meaning that something small and pure can turn into something greater and unforeseen, just as a young shepherd can achieve great feats. As far as the secrets of the universe, the lesson of The Alchemist teaches us that they can't be discovered ahead of time or found in something concrete like a stone, but they can only be found through the journey of finding oneself and pursuing one's personal legend.

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