Sunday, May 16, 2010

What Crazy Means

don quixote
Pray look better, Sir...those things yonder are no giants, but windmills. ~ Miguel De Cervantes, Don Quixote

I've often wondered if Don Quixote knew they were windmills all along and decided not to say anything because he thought it was a good day for tilting. Sancho, his trusty sidekick (most heroes have trusty sidekicks who provide comic relief), pointing out the obvious, misses the obvious point, namely, reality is flexible for those who are adaptable. It's rigidity that gets us in trouble.

For instance, have you ever noticed how religious or political extremism isn't usually characterized by a membership desperate to convince the rest of us to be more open-minded? Nor do you see guys parading around the street during times of crisis with signs reading, "Today is the First Day of the Rest of Your Life." I realize certainty can be comforting, but none of these folks seem intent on providing comfort or being supportive. Somehow they strike me more as rub-your-nose-in-the-dirt types. Things are bad and if you pay attention to me, I'll make you feel even worse.

Of course, the story of Don Quixote, despite my casual musings, ends in tragedy. Hidalgo (he really had a first name) falls victim to depression, having become convinced his pursuit of knightly virtue was a delusion, and dies in despair. But what if it wasn't? Not in the literal sense, but metaphorically speaking. Where was the fault in attempting to better himself and exert an influence for good on his environment?

But it wasn't real, one says, life isn't like that. I suppose not, but neither is every man a used car salesman nor every woman saintly. We're all mixtures of the best and worst we can imagine, but we try to behave in ways that highlight the former and minimize the latter. It's not psychotic, it's what makes us civilized. Giving in to rigid adherence to one way of being doesn't make us realistic, it makes us unhappy, unhealthy, and generally miserable to be around. Maybe Don Quixote was delusional, but at least he tried to make a difference and if that's what crazy means, I'll take it over negativism any day. 

(Creative Commons Image by Lamerie via Flickr)

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