“Too much sanity may be madness—and the maddest of all is to see life as it is, and not as it ought to be.”
-Don Quixote, Man of La Mancha
Most of us are familiar with that literary icon, Don Quixote. The name evokes images of pointy beards, makeshift armor and jousting at windmills. Frankly, I have never read the book nor have I given this particular fictitious lunatic much thought. That is, until recently when a young friend introduced me to a favorite movie of his. Man of La Mancha is an early 1970’s musical that, once I got past how seventies it felt, I saw an intriguing story that has had me thinking for days.
The movie itself is a story within a story but for our purposes we will begin with Alonso Quijana, an older gentleman, who reads so many tales of chivalry that he goes insane. He decides to become a knight himself and assumes the name Don Quixote de la Mancha. Wearing his ragtag armor, he sets off with his manservant to revive chivalry and find adventure. He sees a windmill as a giant to be conquered. He views a shabby inn as a grand castle. He treats a serving woman, who is also a prostitute, as if she were lovely and chaste. When he asks for a token from her to carry into battle she gives him a dirty rag, yet he acts as if it were made of the finest silk.
Don Quixote sees causes worth fighting for. He sees nobility in the average. And most importantly, he sees value in people that they themselves do not.
As I reflected on this movie I found that there are valuable spiritual lessons to be had. Alonso went crazy from reading so many chivalry stories. The reading material that he was feeding on spurred him to action. The ideals that so appealed to him in his stories changed the way he saw the world and the people in it. Doesn’t this sound familiar?
When we regularly ingest the Word of God, we become changed. The Bible calls God’s children a “peculiar” people.* In other words, the world will think you’ve gone mad. But as Christ followers, shouldn’t we try to see the world as it was intended to be rather than focusing on the fallen state it is currently in? Is Jesus glorified when we settle for a sin-filled world and flawed people? How much more would the world take notice if we were to instead see the good, the nobility, the purpose in life and in others and then act accordingly?
Later in the story, he faces The Knight of the Mirrors who forces Don Quixote to see reality. To see himself as “naught but an aging fool”. Not a noble knight at all, just plain old Alonso Quijana. This puts him into a sort of catatonic state, bedridden and close to death. At the end of his life, however, we see the results of his lunacy. Don Quixote’s insanity had allowed others to see beyond the ordinary. His mad ramblings had touched those around him and caused them to want to be more—to become beautiful and noble, as he saw them to be.
My question is this: who had more impact? The man who saw reality, or the lunatic? Who changed lives for the better? Who lived with clarity of purpose?
Musing on this very groovy musical, (how do they manage to make 1600’s period costuming still reek of the 1970’s?) I have come to a conclusion that is now my personal catchphrase.
Truth is absolute, but reality is malleable.
Truth is God’s Word. Reality, however, is how I choose to see the world around me.
I will choose to continue filling my mind with the words of Almighty God. And I pray that they would change me utterly. May I forever see His hand and provision in even the hardest of circumstances. May I see you as created and beloved by God Himself. May I see the beauty and value that He places on you and treat you as such.
So, my friends, I will ignore the mirror of reality that tells me that I have nothing special to offer. I will refuse to believe in the mundane and embark on my quests, flaws and all. The question is, are you mad enough to join me?
*2 Timothy 4:14 (Jesus Christ) “Who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works.”