What does the old man mean when he says that “treasure is uncovered by the force of flowing water, and it is buried by the same currents,” and what does this quote have to do with the story of the miner and the emerald in The Alchemist by Paul Coelho?
This story is meant to help Santiago understand about personal legends, which, he is told by Melchizedek, we all have all our lives. This story reveals the paradox that while forces of life uncover the treasure of our personal legend, those same life forces cover that treasure back up again. This is meant to suggest that one has to be ever vigilant in looking for and pursuing the signs of their personal legend lest the forces that reveal them are stronger than the signs and cover them back up again, as happens when we put off pursuing the sings, eventually losing the opportunity altogether, as in the story of the baker who deferred pursuit and lost the chance.
The quote is meant to emphasize the duality of everything. It's reminiscent of a Yin and Yang style of thought. The flowing water is neither bad nor good. It simply is, but it has the power or ability to affect the world in ways that could be interpreted as positive or negative. The water has the ability to uncover the treasure and cover the treasure.
The story of the miner is the exact same illustration except the old man uses stones instead of water. In the story, a miner has been looking for a beautiful emerald for five years. He is ready to give up. Out of frustration he throws a rock at another rock. The second rock splits open to reveal the emerald.
But he had thrown it with such force that it broke the stone it fell upon, and there, embedded in the broken stone, was the most beautiful emerald in the world.
The story shows how the emerald was hidden by rocks, and how it was revealed with rocks. It shows a duality of rocks.
The point of both stories is the same. The old man is emphasizing to Santiago the importance of staying vigilant and watching out for the omens that will show him to his treasure.
In order to find the treasure, you will have to follow the omens. God has prepared a path for everyone to follow. You just have to read the omens that he left for you.