Following Don Quixote
© 2016 by Ed Chasteen
Before I say much to you, I should tell you that I admire Don Quixote. He never really lived. He’s fictional. Miguel Cervantes lived about the same time as William Shakespeare. Cervantes created the character of Don Quixote and wrote two thick novels about him. Then not many years ago, Dale Wasserman wrote a play based on those two books and called it Man of LaMancha. I saw the play. And see it again anytime it comes near. As the play opens, Don Quixote is an old man. His brains have dried up from reading too much about man’s inhumanity to man. His friends think he is crazy.
You may begin to see why I identify with Don Quixote. I’m an old man. I’ve read too much about man’s inhumanity. My brains may have dried up. That’s what you may decide when you hear what I have to say.
“Facts are the enemy of truth. Too much sanity may be madness,” says Don Quixote. And when his friends advise him that wickedness wears thick armor, Don Quixote replies: “And for that you would have me surrender? Nay, the enchanter may confuse the outcome ten thousand times. Still must a man arise and again do battle, for the effort is sublime.”
When I was small and my mother directed all that I did, she every Saturday morning tuned our little radio that sat atop a table in our sitting room to a program called Let’s Pretend. Here I first heard of Jack and the Beanstalk, the Three Little Pigs, Hansel and Gretel, Rapunzel, King Arthur, Snow White, Goldilocks. Then on Sunday mornings Mother took me to beginners and primaries at Henderson Street Baptist Church, where other mothers put up pictures on flannel boards and told me stories of Moses, Samson, Goliath, David and Jesus.
Thousands of Saturday and Sunday mornings have come and gone in my life since these early ones, but the influence of these that came first has only grown. “Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old, he will not depart from it.” This my mother had learned from The Book she learned at church before I was born, and from her learning taught me. Now on Saturday mornings with my bicycle riders at breakfast and on Sunday mornings at church with my friends, I live still in the world of let’s pretend that the world is as it should be, awaiting only our choosing to make it so.
Early in Man of LaMancha, Don Quixote comes to an old house beside a dusty road, a place where mule drivers spend the night. He mistakes the place for a castle and the woman he meets for a princess. He falls to his knees, calls her “My Lady” and begs to know her name. “Off your knees, you fool. My name is Aldonza, and I am no lady.”
“No my lady. Your name is not Aldonza. Your name is Dulcinea.” She protests and throws a dirty dishrag at him. Several times in the story, Don Quixote returns to this place, each time calling her Dulcinea and treating her as a lady. Near the end of the story, this woman learns that Don Quixote is dying. She finds the place where he is, forces her way in, goes to his bedside and takes his hand. “Who is it?” He asks. “You know who I am. You called me by name and changed my life. My name is Dulcinea.”
She now sees herself as he has seen her all along.
Facts are the enemy of truth. Too much sanity may be madness.