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Santiago likes the peaceful contemplation and ritual he has taking care of sheep. Santiago, however, observes that, although content, they (the sheep) are only concerned with eating and sleeping. They do not contemplate life, a higher purpose or spiritual matters. Santiago wonders if this is also the case with most people. He wonders if he is content to simply eat and sleep through life without any sort of deeper understanding or meaning.
Santiago wished to take care of sheep in the first place because he yearned to travel. But because his family was poor, the only way he was able to do so was to become a shepherd. He later grew to enjoy the company of his sheep.