The Quixotic

The Novel Don Quixote is a work written around 1615 by the spanish author, Miguel de Cervantes.  It is often regarded as a “classic” in modern academia because we no longer know what the word “classical” means.  But that aside, it is, nonetheless, a brilliant work, even with all its imperfections and “birthmarks” as Cervantes calls them (translated from the Spanish of course).

Quixotic, a word derived in the 19th century from Cervantes’ book, means something along the lines of idealistic and unrealistic, romantic.  Quixotism is largely celebrated in Cervantes’ work.  He seems to think that there is a sense in which it is a kind of virtue, something admirable and even valiant.  We cannot help but root for Don Quixote de la Mancha, our unlikely hero, as he literally tilts against windmills for the sake of his wild, perhaps even delusional, dreams.  And it is a matter of much literary analysis and debate to determine whether Quixote is actually insane, and if so, what that means about quixotism; is it less valiant if such is the case?

It seems to me that Don Quixote, through all his ungrounded thinking that he was a medieval knight, has indeed become one of the most valiant knights in all the histories.  Cervantes work seems to suggest that embracing the absurd alternatives to stark realism–that is, to believe that Reality is beautiful in spite of all that might lead one to think otherwise–can be one of the most insane and brilliant tasks a human being can possibly accomplish.  For when we turn to the quixotic, those things that are quixotic begin to become realities.

In this way, quixotism can be a demonstration of faith.  For reality is indeed beautiful as God created it; it just happens to be covered in all kinds of ugly unreality.  But the moment we believe that Reality is beautiful, and more importantly, that God, who is the source of all Real, is beautiful, we begin to see the Eternal Reality that He created in all its splendour.  The temporal begins to dissolve, and only that which is of good report is allowed to remain.

Therefore, I would implore you all, as fellow human beings, to both think and plan quixotically.  Expect God to work in powerful ways, and He will.

It is, in part, for this reason that I largely reject the notion of practicality in any normative study.  That is, we need not worry about “ought implies can” when devising moral theory, nor about the popularity of an idea in any other area.  Our duty is merely to make our models as accurate as we possibly can, and allow the rest to take care of itself.  It is not the duty of the intellectual to ensure that the public likes what he thinks and writes–and I say this more from the perspective of a composer than a writer.  He must only concern himself with the quality of his work and accuracy of his models, and then presume, quixotically, that the world will heed to good work. No idea is impractical.

You might suppose that all this is just wishful thinking, and you would be correct.