Previous Post in the Series:Quotations about Struggle
I think this will be the last post about "The Struggle"...
One of the books on my list to completely read is Don Quijote by Cervantes. I've only read parts of it, so I'm certainly not a scholar. From my literature class in college, I remember my professor talking about how the book was a reaction against the overly romantic works of the middle ages that idealized chivalry, and bravery, but had very little to do with the practical day to day life of the rest of the world.
For those of you that have not read it, Don Quijote is an aging Spaniard who spent his very boring life reading books about knights, chivalry, and adventures. At some point, he appears to lose his mind and thinks himself a knight on a mission to defeat the forces of an evil wizard named Frestron, and to protect the honor of his chosen lady, Dulcinea.
He is accompanied on these quests by his servant, Sancho Panza, who is always the unheard voice of reason. The most well known story in the book is where he comes upon a field of windmills, but the knight-errant looks upon this scene as 40 giants swinging their various weapons this way and that. After refusing to listen to Pancho's insistence that they are windmills, he spurs his horse on and attacks the first windmill. He breaks his lance in pieces and is lifted into the air by the sail and dropped to the ground. After Sancho manages to rouse him, Don Quijote explains that the evil wizard turned the giants into windmills at the last minute in order to steal sweet victory from the knight.
I know some of you are saying, how does a Castillian looney that could have benefited from in-depth psychoanalysis and the application of certain types of chemical supplements, have anything to do with the struggles of everyday life?
The connection between the two is expressed in two questions: Number one, what determines what is real and what is not? Number two, could it be true that our reactions to our perception of reality are very real and representative of who we are, even if we don't have a grasp on the "common" reality everyone else sees?
Let's start with number one: The world is filled with Sancho Panzas. They see the concrete, the solid, and can't perceive anything else. That's a good trait for the survival of the individual, but a bad trait for the betterment of the spirit and soul. We all know these people, they see nothing beyond the mundane, they live for Must-See-TV and Banquet Hungry Man dinners and nothing else. Having an open mind is questioning what is real and what isn't. Its not allowing yourself to live solely on the strength of your perceptions.
Number two reminded me of a sociological theory, called the Thomas Theorem. It was developed by William I. Thomas and Dorothy S. Thomas. The theory states that, "If people define situations as real, they are real in their consequences." Even though the windmills were not giants, when Don Quijote acted on what he believed, the results were real enough, he was injured. His perceived world was real to him, in both perception and reaction.
I don't believe that Cervantes was trying to show the value of all human struggle as inherently heroic, even if directed towards a cause that would ultimately fail. But I see the story that way. Quijote may have been a nutcase to those around him, but he was a sincere nutcase. He approached the world solely on the strength of his convictions and what he believed to be true.
Somewhere between Sancho Panza and Don Quijote lies the way to live a satisfying life. If we are so enveloped in the fog of the mundane that we never spur our horse on to joust at what the world perceives as just a windmill, but we see as forty giants out to do harm to the world around us, I think that we have missed a great deal.
Thanks for reading,
Click here to read the whole series from the beginning: Prelude:Struggle
Purgatory: A place of suffering and torment with an unknown duration. In Roman Catholic Theology-the place where the dead are purified from their sins.
By Rage Against The Machine