14 October 2005

The Impossible Dream

A recent survey of over 250 well-known authors from around the world was made to select the 10 greatest novels ever written. The clear winner, mentioned by more than half those surveyed, was Don Quixote.

Written 400 years ago, this novel of a dreamer who seeks to emulate the idealistic heroes of knighthood has enraptured readers across time, ages, languages and borders. The reason is obvious: Don Quixote represents the power of Our dreams.

No matter the reality he faces, with stalwart companion and staunch realist Sancho Panza, Don Quixote sees the best in everyone and everything. He wants the best for everyone and everything. He stares down evil and poor manners with fierce contempt, while elevating the mundane and banal to the level of sublime. No bad is tolerated; no good is overlooked. His is a world of his own making, and thus, it is perfect.

But Don Quixote is self-aware enough to realize he is out-of-touch with the world at large, that in fact, he is mocked and attacked for his way of seeing and reacting to Life. It hurts, but he remains steadfast, choosing his visionary ideals over the masses' mundane blindness.

Greatness in one realm seldom translates into another. For example, many is the book that becomes a wretched movie. Don Quixote became a Broadway musical titled Man of La Mancha, and its signature song quickly became an anthem for the idealist. "The Impossible Dream", penned by Mitch Leigh and with superb lyrics by Joe Darion, captures the essential power of Don Quixote's vision, especially with the stirring finale:

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 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

Don Quixote lives his life. He prefers the nobility of reaching for his utmost over the inspidness of mere existence. He would rather shine in defeat than live in the darkness of what others call comfort.

Don Quixote is a romantic, "a soulful, amorous idealist". Over the course of 400 years, his soul, a soul composed entirely of words, has blazed as a symbol of humanity.

And the world is better for this. It always is when We reach for Our dreams.

The Jenius Has Spoken.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Because of its defeatism, this is not Che's anthem, but Che himself, when he was leaving to fight in Cuba, wrote to his mother "Once more I feel the ribs of Rosinante beneath my heels."