~ a reflection on the epic novel Don Quixote (1605), by Miguel de Cervantes.

Volume I: Quixotic — a short exploration of a singular passage expounding Don Quixote’s hyperrealistic, self-determined origins and their emergent relationship to the future descriptor “quixotic.”

So yeah, I started reading Don Quixote the other day.

Not necessarily spur of the moment, there was a progression to me picking up the classic Spanish tale that is glorified as THE founding novel of our modern world. I just finished Borges’ book of short and sordid tales A Universal History of Infamy” (1935), with the intent to read A Tragic Sense of Life (1912) by Miguel de Unamuno next {a book that I discovered by way of the fictional captain character not-named-Picard from the new (and pretty decent) TV series Star Trek: Picard (2019) reading it… with his cool beard and devil-may-care attitude…}

{I’m also currently in Central America, surrounded by the Spanish language, which might also be playing a role in such a decision.}

~ meet Captain Cristóbal Rios, vocal advocate of Unamuno’s A Tragic Sense of Life.

Anyway, as I started to read Sense, only yet digging through its long and verbose introduction qualifying the career and purpose of the book and its philosophy from a million different angles… Don Quixote was referenced enough times to draw my eye to a remembrance of it. I never read it, but know of its vital importance to the history of world literature. Unamuno, a fellow Spaniard and chief scholar of Cervantes and his masterwork, was heavily influenced by it with his own life and work. In fact, through way of this insanely detailed intro’s telling, A Tragic Sense of Life is apparently filled with references to Don, throughlines of its vitality as a monument to Spanish lore, and, from such influences, full of a certain level of … quixotic-ness in and of itself that all great books of philosophical inquiry must contain.

And so, after finishing this introduction, with words from a contextualizing introducer and the author Unamuno himself, I put that book down and picked up Don Quixote.

I thought: clearly, if I am to get everything that there is to be got out of Sense, I will first need to read Quixote.

Truly, as an admirer of literature and masterpieces, I should have already read Don Quixote ~ the classic tale of a washed nobleman “who reads so many chivalric romances that he loses his mind and decides to become a knight-errant (caballero andante) to revive chivalry and serve his nation, under the name Don Quixote de la Mancha…” ~ many, many years ago.

Just in that premise, I feel a spiritually kindred connection to our insane knight…

Gustave Doré — Miguel de Cervantes — Don Quixote — Part 1 — Chapter 1 — Plate 1 “A world of disorderly notions, picked out of his books, crowded into his imagination…


“…This searching within, Unamuno has undertaken with a sincerity, a fearlessness which cannot be excelled. Nowhere will the reader find the inner contradictions of a modern human being, who is at the same time healthy and capable of thought set down with a greater respect for truth. Here the uncompromising tendency of the Spanish race, whose eyes never turn away from nature, however unwelcome the sight, is strengthened by that passion for life which burns in Unamuno. The suppression of the slightest thought or feeling for the sake of intellectual order would appear to him as a despicable worldly trick. Thus it is precisely because he does sincerely feel a passionate love of his own life that he thinks out with such scrupulous accuracy every argument which he finds in his mind — his own mind, a part of his life — against the possibility of life after death; but it is also because he feels that, despite such conclusive arguments, his will to live perseveres, that he refuses to his intellect the power to kill his faith. A knight-errant of the spirit, as he himself calls the Spanish mystics, he starts for his adventures after having, like Hernán Cortés, burnt his ships. But, is it necessary to enhance his figure by literary comparison? He is what he wants to be, a man — in the striking expression which he chose as a title for one of his short stories, nothing less than a whole man. Not a mere thinking machine, set to prove a theory, nor an actor on the world stage, singing a well-built poem, well built at the price of many a compromise; but a whole man, with all his affirmations and all his negations, all the pitiless thoughts of a penetrating mind that denies, and all the desperate self-assertions of a soul that yearns for eternal life.”

~ a rather quixotic excerpt from the intro to A Tragic Sense of Life, by S. De Madariaga


And now, no more.
God give my English readers that inextinguishable thirst for truth which I desire for myself.


~ final excerpt from the preface of A Tragic Sense of Life


Quixotic” is one of those words.

Definition of quixotic:

1: foolishly impractical especially in the pursuit of ideals
especially : marked by rash lofty romantic ideas or extravagantly chivalrous action


Most people have heard it at this point; many people probably think it’s a neat word. How many people know what it means? Far less people are likely to realize its origins. I happen to love it, as a word. And now, I love it even more as a word with such legendary lore behind it.

The word, this unique adjective, is so named after Don Quixote, the principal namesake of the classic adventure novel which invented and influenced the genre for all time. Importantly, it is a name he chose for himself {his true birth name being the equally-quixotic-but-apparently-not-as-knightly Alonso Quixano}. Its origins, along with a few other conceptual lodestars now among the common English lexicon {“dulcinea” and “rosinante”}, perfectly marry together the prime aspects that make Don such a magnificent character carrying his majestic tale into eternity:

If you guessed that quixotic has something to do with Don Quixote, you’re absolutely right. The hero of the 17th-century Spanish novel El Ingenioso Hidalgo Don Quijote de la Mancha (by Miguel de Cervantes) didn’t change the world by tilting at windmills, but he did leave a linguistic legacy in English. The adjective quixotic is based on his name and has been used to describe unrealistic idealists since at least the early 18th century. The novel has given English other words as well. Dulcinea, the name of Quixote’s beloved, has come to mean mistress or sweetheart, and rosinante, which is sometimes used to refer to an old, broken-down horse, comes from the name of the hero’s less-than-gallant steed.

~ https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/quixotic#note-1

“Unrealistic idealism.”

^ This is the essence of quixotic’s definition.

To me, after only reading about 10% of the novel thus far, this being the legacy — and true nature! — of this hero’s story marks Don Quixote as a tragedy to pair equally with its comedy.

What a tragedy for idealism to become unrealistic? And for it to be that way already, then and now, 416! years hence…

And naming himself “Quixote” is not the only gratifying choice that our hero makes early in his “saga,” truly before it can be called thus.

An early passage from the novel inspired me to write any of this at all:

…And so, having completed these preparations, he did not wish to wait any longer to put his thought into effect, impelled by the great need in the world that he believed was caused by his delay, for there were evils to undo, wrongs to right, injustices to correct, abuses to ameliorate, and offenses to rectify. And one morning before dawn on a hot day in July, without informing a single person of his intentions, and without anyone seeing him, he armed himself with all his armor and mounted Rocinante, wearing his poorly constructed helmet, and he grasped his shield and took up his lance and through the side door of a corral he rode out into the countryside with great joy and delight at seeing how easily he had given a beginning to his virtuous desire.

Aside from the god-tier writing, the vivifying descriptions and dialogues, the philosophical ponderances and the impassioned characters, large and small in spirit, all caught in constantly surprising and delighting devil-may-care plotting that grace the early sections of Cervantes’ story — the above passage best captures, to me, what makes Don Quixote magical.

Don Quixote’s great, singular, quixotic desire to make his Dream a reality, and not just any dream but one contingent entirely upon expected mortal challenge grasped for the sake of intrinsically-motivating, utterly immaterial and selfless virtues and a devotion to old school chivalry as an ideal that he aims to build anew with his own two hands, is at least as admirable as it is mad. His immortal namesake is earned in the English lexicon in his hyperreal, meta-reality-crafting decision to self-determine himself into being a knight, armoring up with steel on his torso and honied soliloquies on his lips, justly out of his sheer will and a “virtuous desire” engraved deeply into his heart.

How wonderfully “easily,” with “great joy and delight,” does our lovely little madman step out into the world with full heart and clear eyes to give a beauteous “beginning to his virtuous desire”?

What a quixotic king. To believe in something and then become his belief. {All the failures and follies to come be damned! His reckless violence and potential clinical insanity be damned, too… Let us just marinate in this great beginning *becoming* for the moment.}

I cannot be anything in his presence, across time and space and through the veils of fantasia, other than inspired to champion my own self-styled virtuous desire to be a pathfinding knight-errant of my own extraordinary making.

~ A knight-errant (or knight errant) is a figure of medieval chivalric romance literature. The adjective errant (meaning “wandering, roving”) indicates how the knight-errant would wander the land in search of adventures to prove his chivalric virtues, either in knightly duels (pas d’armes) or in some other pursuit of courtly love. … The knight-errant is a character that has broken away from the world of his origin, in order to go off on his own to right wrongs or to test and assert his own chivalric ideals. He is motivated by idealism and goals that are often illusory. In medieval Europe, knight-errantry existed in literature, though fictional works from this time often were presented as non-fiction.
~ Art: Knight at the Crossroads — Viktor Vasnetsov (1882)
~ My first experience with a knight-errant as a child: https://gatherer.wizards.com/pages/card/Details.aspx?multiverseid=13099

Except, here and now, with such reflective writing concretely *manifesting* such a Dream upon pages of my own, I am not of like soul with our quixotic hero completely, who carried no intent to inform or have himself sighted by any Other in the midst of his greatest Self’s becoming.

At least, with this writing, I am not anymore of like soul with him in that sole regard; my unrealistic ideals, my virtuous desire to self-determine my life into an adventurous undertaking, Self-judgments and Other-doubts be damned, with chivalrous, ameliorating action done unto misfortuned peoples and righteous battle done onto evils, wrongs, injustices, abuses and offenses within my sphere of influence, along my quixotic quest to nowhere in particular, every detour taken for its own sake, with zesty passion and supernal intention — is all well intact.

It is just that my days of setting forth “without informing a single person of his intentions, and without anyone seeing him…” are over. My days of solipsism are ended. They must be. For if I am to be a heartfelt knight-errant-writer, pursuing foolish ideals and romantic ideas and extravagant chivalrous action, then I must be in the world, among the people, placing myself into their lives in such grand and meaningful ways, intentions both informed and sighted.

So yeah, I say thank you already Don Quixote. The lively lurch of your own quixotic quest’s beginning has further inspired yet another.

Alas, I will keep reading. ~