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Know Jack #421 Tilting at Windmills

“This is my quest, to follow that star, no matter how hopeless, no matter how far…”

Don Quixote has a lasting literary legacy as an eccentric, tragically comedic character. It’s well deserved, but his eccentricity is not the entire picture portrayed in the classic story. Don Quixote was rational, intelligent, and well-reasoned in all matters except one. When the subject turned to knights and chivalry he was lost. The man he normally was disappeared, windmills turned into giants, and village inns into castles. His heart burned with passion and his head was so filled with romantic dreams that they came to life.

Don Quixote’s rapid shifts from reality to fantasy are much like those of an author I know. He is too reserved and socially awkward to be a good conversationalist. Like Cervantes’ character, he reads books steeped in the ideals of a forgotten age. He studies too much for a man his age, convinced that he was born two hundred years too late. For all that, he is a rational, fairly intelligent sort—until he is struck by a whim to write.

When that happens, rationality and reality seem to get lost. He hears the voices of imaginary heroes. They tell him stories of romantic exploits that come to life. A living room becomes a bayou filled with monsters or a cattle ranch plagued by lycanthropy. The street outside the door is so quiet because a mass alien abduction of his neighbors has taken place. He sallies forth from reality until he drags himself home beaten and weary.

Don Quixote died believing he had read all the wrong books and so had given his life in a vain pursuit of wrong ideals. My writer friend, though grown old, is still unrepentant of his books and notions. He persists in romantic dreams of a world that can be made right through virtue and fidelity to a quest for truth and honor.

Though some who love him have warned him of his error in the pursuit of writing, he is undeterred. Wearing cobbled together odds and ends, which he sees as armor, he mounts his trusty steed and sallies forth at the most importune times. Where he goes no one, except, perhaps, those who entertain his yarns, really know. It is enough for him that he dreams of unrequited exploits.

“Come, Sancho, we ride at dawn.”

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