Sanity is a slippery slope at times. We all know this. We’ve all fought our share of four armed giants and lost. None of us as innocent as when we started out. Certainly, as supporters of the romance genre, whether as reader or writer, we’ve defended against countless giants in the form of cynics and naysayers. Some might say we are the Don Quixote of the literary world. The laughingstock. The discounted. The delusional.
Romantic ideals don’t put food on the table. No matter the ideal is food for the mind. Reality must be dealt with. But how we deal with it is up to us.
I saw Man of La Mancha at Globe Theatre last night. Can you tell? In case, like me, you’re unfamiliar, it’s a play within a play. Tax collector, writer, soldier, and unfortunate poet, Miguel de Cervantes, is tossed into prison and is waiting his hearing by the Spanish Inquisition. First, however, he must defend himself against his follow prisoners to save his most precious possession. His unfinished novel, Don Quixote. The trials and tribulations of a mad knight.
Don Quixote is a lot bonkers. He’s read too many books about chivalry and knights and romance. Poor sot. Determined to resurrect the notion of chivalry, he sets out on a journey.
I shall impersonate a man. His name is Alonso Quijana, a country squire no longer young. Being retired, he has much time for books. He studies them from morn till night and often through the night and morn again, and all he reads oppresses him; fills him with indignation at man’s murderous ways toward man. He ponders the problem of how to make better a world where evil brings profit and virtue none at all; where fraud and deceit are mingled with truth and sincerity. He broods and broods and broods and broods and finally his brains dry up. He lays down the melancholy burden of sanity and conceives the strangest project ever imagined…. to become a knight-errant, and sally forth into the world in search of adventures; to mount a crusade; to raise up the weak and those in need. No longer will he be plain Alonso Quijana, but a dauntless knight known as Don Quixote de La Mancha. – Miguel de Cervantes, Man of La Mancha
Yeah, there are days I’d like to lay down the melancholy burden of sanity too. Then again, I am a romance writer and reader. So…there you go. Fortunately, I haven’t read so many romance novels my brains have dried up. Or given me unrealistic expectations, a familiar taunt and most insulting insinuation by the way.
Here’s the thing. You know he’s nuts. But…you can’t help but root for him, even if there’s a little pity mixed in. He sees the world, not how it is, but how he wishes. In this age of text messages and the illusion of 750 Facebook friends, why not dip your toe into the pool of delusion. Not as a full time job, of course.
I come in a world of iron to make a world of gold.- Don Quixote, Man of La Mancha
I loved this play. It inspired me to think and wonder. I’m not quite sure I understood it all, but that only makes me want to see it performed again. Because, you see, I couldn’t help but relate to Don Quixote. And that’s the thing about this play. There’s a little Don Quixote in all of us. Reality can break a person. Therefore, we must bend it a little to suit ourselves.
Which loops me back to romance. Romantic fiction is necessary. Stories filled with sole purpose of traveling the winding, uphill road to a happily-ever-after are important.When reality presses in, pick up a romance novel. Immerse yourself in modern acts of chivalry. Spend some times with heroes or heroines who you know will fight to figure it out. Let them inspire you. Give you a few precious moments of peace. Of adventure. Turn the pages, dream the impossible dream. At least for awhile.
When life itself seems lunatic, who knows where madness lies? Perhaps to be too practical is madness. To surrender dreams — this may be madness. To seek treasure where there is only trash. Too much sanity may be madness — and maddest of all: to see life as it is, and not as it should be! - Miguel de Cervantes, Man of La Mancha
If you get a chance to see Man of La Mancha I hope you take it. I hope it inspires you. I hope it brings out the Don Quixote in you, my fellow travelers.