The madness of Don Quixote

‘I prefer the madness of Don Quixote to the sanity of most other men. Cervantes’s Knight of the Rueful Countenance, Don Quixote de la Mancha, is alleged to have become deluded by the brain-addling effects of his continued immersion in the reading of chivalric tales of ‘enchantments’, knightly encounters, battles, challenges, wounds, love and its torments and all sorts of impossible things.

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Though he exaggerated his own importance, had a distorted view of what he encountered, and overestimated his chances of setting things to rights, the world into which he sallied forth was really (like our own) unjust. Perhaps it demands such a holy fool as Don Quixote to take the evil of the world seriously enough and to imagine himself sufficiently adequate to be willing to dedicate his life to improving the suffering lot of others.

It takes a Gothic Christ, torn by modern anguish to face the sufferings of this absurd world; a ridiculous Christ of our own neighbourhood, created by a sorrowful imagination which [has] lost its innocence and its will and is striving to replace them. Attempts at social change are after all usually left to the youthful idealists, while older cynics wait for the young fools to outgrow their folly.

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It is of course possible to describe Reality reductively as nothing but this or that. What woman, for the cynically hyper realistic man, is any more than a rag, a bone, and a hank of hair? The human body can be reduced to its chemical components in a set of physical interactions, but that which is most human is lost in the analysed ashes. It is impoverished chemical baggage who lives in a world to which he will not bring vitality or meaning. Life is very dull for those too timid, too unimaginative, too sane to bring to it a sense of personal style, of individual purpose, of colour, verve, fun, and excitement. Don Quixotes Quest, the personal pilgrimage of his mad life, was to live in ‘the world as it is traversed by a man as he ought to be’. If this be the wine of madness, then I say: ‘Come fill my cup’.

-Three of my favorite passages from, If you meet the Buddha on the road, Kill him! – Sheldon B. Kopp, Chapter 6. Tale of a Mad Knight

 

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