A Quixote Conundrum

Don quixote 1

After having read [most of] the Miguel Cervantes classic “Don Quixote” for one of my major classes last year, I didn’t think I’d ever dwell upon it again after that. But I was wrong.

The Sparknotes version of the story goes like this:

– 50-somethingish “lesser” member of Spanish nobility (thanks Wikipedia) thinks he’s a knight errant

– said “knight errant” proceeds to rescue damsels in distress, fight dragons, etc. with the simpleminded “squire” Sancho Panza

– ^^^all of his misadventures are products of his own mind

The underlying question of the novel – which scholars have analyzed for decades, possibly centuries – is whether or not Don Quixote should be considered a hero or a fool. He might be called a hero because he did exhibit chivalric traits of a legitimate knight. While all of his misadventures were delusions of grandeur, his dedication to courage and justice was not.

But perhaps he is a fool because the entire story is built upon his own fantasies.

Yet there’s something to be said for his persistence in pursuing rightness, albeit in extraordinary (and entirely made up) circumstances.

Don quixote 2

This is something I’ve been grappling with the last couple of days in my own daily routine. I often wonder if I’m a heroine of sorts in my life story or if I’m really just a madwoman. I hope I’m not the only one.

Especially with my job, I like to think I’m knight-ish in small ways by providing a valuable service to others in all the hours and sweat I dedicate each week. But I also think I must be foolish to expect others to see it this way.

I love what I do. But rarely is anything all rainbows and sunshine.

I have to put on a brave face every day as I can be put into a position where I can be cornered, scrutinized and occasionally subject to a community member’s frustrations. And that is fine and not at all unexpected because being published means being subject to review by everyone in the community who is a) literate, b) has strong opinions on a matter being published, or c) both A and B.

I leave myself open to potentially being on the receiving end of someone else’s rudeness. Out of the 30-50+ phone calls I make each week, I’ve had to be proactive about putting my tough skin on for a good handful of those. That’s as specific as I can be without getting myself into hot(ter) water.

But once in a good while, I’ll let myself shed some runaway tears while I’m stalled in traffic after I clock out. Obviously that does nothing to solve my problems, so it’s a behavior I don’t really engage in.

So when someone’s being genuinely nice to me, I automatically take a step back to evaluate the situation – they must want something from me! Or perhaps it’s a precursor to bad news or “constructive criticism” aimed at me. I really don’t think any of us is quite used to genuine courtesy beyond what you’ll find from waiters at a restaurant or a Jehovah’s Witness that comes to your door to deliver some sort of message or some kinds words from a close friend.

They say that it doesn’t cost anything to be nice but I think more people realize that it doesn’t cost anything to be rude, either. And let’s be honest – it’s much easier to not be nice.

I think Cervantes said it best – “Sanity may be madness but the maddest of all is to see life as it is and not as it should be.”

I must be a mad person then, to think it shouldn’t be so difficult for more people to realize that a little more kindness goes a long way. Of course I must also admit I am a little hypocritical as well, since I am not entirely blameless when it comes to behaving like a “beezy” sometimes and not always kind like I know I should be.

But we also have to face the fact that not everyone will see us as we truly are. No one has the time in this me-centric universe. To some, we may only be seen as nosy or brash or foolish but I see the ones making these assumptions as the fools themselves.

I suppose when it comes down to it, I think I’m fine with being something of a fool for my idealistic notions.