Searching for Don Quixote

What’s not to like.  A chivalrous man with many of the personal attributes missing in today’s society – generous, kind, brave, optimistic, hardworking, courteous, well-bred, educated, inspirational, humorous, and knowledgeable. I repeat.  What’s not to like.

Alright, he is over 500 years-old but why complain about such a small detail. You say he is also a fictional character?  No! These two issues would be insurmountable odds to a lesser person, but not this author.

As I was reflecting on the atmosphere of tension radiating across the United States, and now being translated across the world, I started thinking of those long ago lessons learned from studying the pages of Quixote’s existence.  One theme resonates consistently – HOPE.

Don Quixote, an aristocrat, in his travels with his squire Sancho Panza, demonstrated his vision for the best in people. Ridiculed, often called insane and mad, he refused to listen to the voices of the naysayers. Crazy to treat people equally?  Insane to fall in love with a personal singular vision of happiness? Unacceptable to reject practicality for the greater good?

Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra wrote “El Ingenioso Hildalgo Don Quijote de la Mancha”, the first novel, in Spanish, about 100 years before the first English novel (although Shakespeare wrote his prose and poetry about a decade before), and is the most translated Spanish literature book in England. Actually, it is the most translated Spanish literature book by all countries across the globe.

The Bible is the most translated book in the world with an estimated 2,932 translations. Surely, even the casual reader acknowledges its message of seeking the best in humanity. Doing the best for humanity.  And, while Cervantes’ classic has been translated only 48 times, it still remains a studied work of literature across the globe for its dual complexity between the need for realism and the joy of redemptive, loving, infectious, and resilient belief. While one cannot compare the impact of the former book to the latter, one can say that both encourage action and a vision of faith, hope, and love.

Quixote is a long and tedious book at times, and most people who have heard of the novel more often than not mention Chapter 8 and the “tilting at windmills” storyline.  And in doing so believe that Quixote was foolish and obviously insane to take action against the  But many of the other 126 chapters are just as impactful and range from themes of equality to justice.

The first part of Don Quixote was written in 1605 and the second part written in 1615.  Meanwhile, for context, Pedro Menendez de Aviles, the Spanish explorer, came to the shores of Florida and established San Agustin (St. Augustine) in 1565.  Later, in 1620, the Pilgrims landed on the shores of Cape Cod.

The Spanish and the English have much in common, and much in difference.  Don Quixote was a student of his squire as much as Sancho Panza was a servant of his master.   Differences do not preclude appreciation, negotiation, affection, or unity.

Americans are not getting along?  I am turning to the wisdom and chivalry of Don Quixote.  A girl can dream can’t she.


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