Pilgrim Pathways: Notes for a Diaspora People

Incarnational Discipleship

To Dream the Impossible Dream

I love the fact that for $8 per month, you can get numerous movies through Netflix instantly through your Wii as well as on DVD through the mail. Last night, I treated my oldest daughter to the classic 1972 musical Man of La Mancha starring Peter Toole and Rachel Welch.  It’s based on the Broadway musical of the same name which, in turn, is based on Miguel de Cervantes’ classic Don Quixote, but the musical shows Cervantes the playwright imprisoned by the Spanish Inquisition–and so is a play within a play as Cervantes stages Don Quixote for the prison inmates as he awaits his summons by the Inquisition for daring to tweak the vanity of Holy Mother Church and being charged with heresy.

I love the major themes: “Madness” that insists on treating all men with honor and all women with courtesy is preferable to “reality” which treats people like dirt. Poets and playwrights can help change the world for the better by concentrating on how the world should be rather than how it is. (The imprisoned Cervantes claims to the “realist” prisoners that he, a former soldier who saw too many men die in his arms for foolish causes, knows “reality” all too well.)

Best of all: The struggle for a better reality for all is worthwhile even if one sees no discernable change–even if the forces of evil (and cynicism and “reality”) seem always to win.  Alonzo, the aging wealthy landlord who has gone mad and become Don Quixote, dies without ever seeing his dreams of knight errantry realized. He didn’t slay a giant, but merely tilted at a windmill–which broke his lance, bent his sword into a curlique, and dented his ancient armor.  Cervantes is taken away by the Inquisition to a presumably ghastly fate.  Evil seems to have triumphed.  But “squire” Sancho Panza cannot simply return to being a down on his luck peasant whose wife beats him and the kitchen wench/prostitute Adanda cannot simply remain a whore.  Don Quixote saw her as “his lady,” the pure and noble Dulcinea and while she cannot, in reality, become a highborn lady, she can stop being a whore and see HERSELF as the pure and compassionate “Dulcinea,” a being of worth.  None of the prisoners with Cervantes are freed, but they also begin to see themselves as worthwhile persons–infected with Don Quixote’s “madness.”

In a world in which the powerful are trying to hurt the poor and the elderly more than they already are, in which aid to tornado victims is held hostage for cuts in Medicaid, in which teachers and garbage collectors are demonized and their pension funds raided but CEO bonuses are considered “earned” and “deserved,” fighting for social justice can seem like madness. Better that madness than the “reality” of always giving into the forces of the great gods “marketplace” and “war.”  But Don Quixote himself says it better in the best song of the musical:

To dream … the impossible dream …
To fight … the unbeatable foe …
To bear … with unbearable sorrow …
To run … where the brave dare not go …
To right … the unrightable wrong …
To love … pure and chaste from afar …
To try … when your arms are too weary …
To reach … the unreachable star …

This is my quest, to follow that star …
No matter how hopeless, no matter how far …
To fight for the right, without question or pause …
To be willing to march into Hell, for a Heavenly cause …

And I know if I’ll only be true, to this glorious quest,
That my heart will lie will lie peaceful and calm,
when I’m laid to my rest …
And the world will be better for this:
That one man, scorned and covered with scars,
Still strove, with his last ounce of courage,
To reach … the unreachable star …

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June 5, 2011 - Posted by | film reviews, the virtue of hope

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