Years ago my wife and I decided we'd like to read Don Quixote to each other. We had done this previously with “Cold Mountain” and that worked out pretty well except we were reading whole chapters before trading off. That's quite a workout for the old voice box if you've ever tried it. I guess I’m not used to talking that much. The Don Quixote exercise worked out better because it has nice short chapters. It's weird how reading aloud makes you feel like you're doing the the audiobook version. I worked hard on my intonation for the knight errant but it was still a pretty weak Jose Ferrar.
What a surprise; life began to look quixotic. My idealism appeared every bit as absurd as Cervantes' "Knight Errant” with his compulsion to protect the weak and honor his beloved Dulcinea. We are just sensible crazies responding with idealism to a society drifting and a bit out of whack.
And what foolishness it is, believing that every roadside inn is a castle and every innkeeper a king. What kind of fantasy world does this guy live in? But Cervantes has a reason for giving us this odd and absurd character. It's because the illusion he harbors contains something important, and this is it; that the good in us is fostered by assuming the potential for good is always there. It’s life lived as it might be rather than life as it is. Even if that means falling out of step with modern life.
Now I know this story line all ends rather tragically, everything reverting to norm in the end, Don Quixote becoming plain old Quixana. But stories with idealism somewhere in the mix generally have that problem. So it's not all about results here. And realism as an alternative doesn’t exactly spout a glowing rainbow’s end either. So setting ultimate destiny aside for the moment I’ll follow the path which is more generous to my soul.
Come to think of it I’m really not that much of an idealist either. At my age, that would equate with not having a working relationship with reality. Humanity’s basic goodness remains an open question for me as we seem to continually give in to the smallness of tribe and habit. Yet all around us are examples of people who break out and live larger, truer lives. Don Quixote remains one of those figures for me, in spite of… or maybe because of his pathetically weak reality adjustment.
So the Knight Errant moves once more across our landscape. I remember that someone once explained to me that a beautiful landscape features both refuge and prospect. His refuge may be his illusion of idealism. But this landscape is beautiful because it also includes his prospect.