Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Fire on La Mancha

"Not long after setting out on his first adventures, Don Quixote is invited to share a frugal meal with a group of goatherds. A little meat stew, plenty of wine. When they finish, the goatherds spread out hard cheese and a quantity of acorns, which they start cracking open for dessert. Don Quixote just rolls a few in his hand, lost in a reverie. He clears his throat. Fortunate the age and fortunate the times called golden by the ancients, he tells the chewing peasants. It was an age when nature’s bounty lay ready to be gathered. There was no mine and thine, no farms, no making of farm tools, no makers of farm tools. Modest shepherdesses, simply attired, roamed the hills unmolested, stopping only to hear the spontaneous, unaffected poetry of their chaste lovers. No laws were enforced because none were needed.
That age ended. Why? The goatherds do not ask, and Quixote doesn’t burden them with his esoteric knowledge. He just reminds them of what they already know: now maidens and even orphans are not safe from predators. When the Golden Age ended, laws became necessary, but since there were no pure hearts left to enforce them, the strong and vicious were free to terrorize the weak and good. That was why the order of knights was created in the Middle Ages, and why Quixote has resolved to revive it. The goatherds listen in “stupefied and perplexed” silence to this old man in his papier-mâché helmet. Sancho Panza, already used to his master’s harangues, continues drinking."
-Mark Lilla, "Only an Apocalypse can save us now" in Harper's Magazine

"For those who have never experienced defeat, destruction or exile, there is an undeniable charm to loss"

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