Tuesday, December 19, 2017

The Exploits of Don Quixote

On a snowy Vancouver day, two things I love: Don Quixote and old vinyl records:

For over three centuries readers in all countries have been delighted by the adventures of this absurd gentleman and his squire Sancho Panza.  The reason for Quixote's popularity cannot be merely that he is ridiculous, or that he makes a nuisance of himself and gets into trouble wherever he goes. Quixote is the embodiment, even though he is also the exaggeration, of a great idea.  This idea is that there is more in life than the humdrum routine of everyday affairs; that true greatness is to be found only in the spirit of service to an ideal.  That the ideal is, with Quixote, only an illusion does not detract from its fascination, though it does make him a pathetic figure.  To attempt the impossible for the sake of honor--to add to the store of human greatness by risking everything without the hope of material reward--to endure danger and hardship because endurance is noble: this is the quixotic ideal, and the world would be poorer without it.  That is the secret of Don Quixote's universal appeal. We may, indeed we mus, laugh at his absurdity; yet if there is anything of chivalry or generosity in us, we cannot help being on his side, however innocent his victims. We know he cannot win, but his misguided valour excites our pity with our laughter.


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