Rooftop sculpture, The Old Bank Hotel, Oxford, England.
"Manuel works for 30 years without stopping. He brings up his children, sets a good example and devotes all his time to work, never asking: 'Does what I'm doing have any meaning?' His one thought is that the busier he is, the more important he will be in the eyes of the world.
"His children grow up and leave home. He gets a promotion at work. One day, he receives a watch or a pen, as a reward for all those years of devotion. His friends shed a few tears and the longed-for moment arrives: he's retired, free to do whatever he wants!
"...Manuel is a free man, reasonably well off, well informed, with an impeccable past. But what now? What should he do with this hard-won freedom? Everyone greets him and praises him, but no one has time for him. Gradually, Manuel begins to feel sad and useless, despite all those many years spent serving the world and his family.
"One night an angel appears to him while he sleeps: 'What have you done with your life? Did you try to live your life according to your dreams?'
"Another long day begins. The newspapers. The TV news. The garden. Lunch. A short nap. He can do whatever he wants to do, except that right now, he discovers he doesn't want to do anything. Manuel is a sad, free man, just one step away from depression, because he was always too busy to think about the meaning of his life and simply let the years flow under the bridge. He remembers the words of the poet: 'He passed through life; he did not live it.'
"However, since it is too late to accept all this, it's best just to change the subject. His hard-won freedom is merely exile-in-disguise."
- Excerpt from "Manuel is a Free Man" from the book Like the Flowing River by Paulo Coehlo.