March 24, 2016


Don Quixote and the Via Dolorosa (SEAN FITZPATRICK, 3/22/16, Crisis)

What Don Quixote brings to the Modern Age after failing to find the Middle Ages is an Age of Faith.

The quest of Don Quixote is the Lenten quest of every Christian soul: to bring harmony and order to times that are out of joint. What Don Quixote finds is that the world is sundered and senseless, and the work to rebuild among the ruins is treacherous. Though he is trampled and trounced time and again, Don Quixote resolutely rides on for the unity and wisdom of bygone days and is upheld by his vision as he battles through the divisions and disconnections of modernity. There is a wisdom that belongs to idiots. Truth can be elusive--even illusory. "The foolishness of God is wiser than men," writes St. Paul in his letter to the Corinthians. Don Quixote may be mad, but there are forms of madness that are divine. Don Quixote may see things that are not visible, but only because he looks beyond the veil. The world is not broken. The pessimism that fragments reality is a falsehood. The world is not divided, but unified. Don Quixote is a hero of the indomitable power of Christian optimism, Christian imagination, and the glorious Christian folly that perceives the highest realities in the lowliest realities. Don Quixote is an icon of the chivalric Christian warrior because he has dreams that are out of reach, and he believes in them. He is a man of great faith. It is only when the illusion is lost, when sanity shakes off insanity, when dreams are replaced with reality, that Don Quixote is truly conquered. Dostoevsky wrote in his diary that Don Quixote was "the saddest book ever written," because "it is a story of disillusionment." If the logic of the world is all there is, what reason is there to be sane? Reality must be touched by the imagination if men are to escape from the madness of reason alone.

The Adventures of Don Quixote is one of the Great Books, but it is also a good book. In fact, what makes Don Quixote great is not necessarily more important than what makes it good. Why it is considered the first modern novel, or whether Don Quixote is mad in a sane world or sane in a mad world, or what the intentions and identity of the Moorish narrator are are really not as essential as the beautiful and brutal parable that Don Quixote presents in its episodic mishaps in the name of chivalry. The adventures of Don Quixote are a Passion where the spirit is willing but the flesh is weak. The novel takes up its cross, chapter after chapter, and follows after Christ. Chapter after chapter, the Knight of the Sorrowful Face falls, and, chapter after chapter, he gets up again and continues on. It is a book that plays out with all the pain and poignancy, all the humanity and humor, that composes the chivalric call of the Christian life.

Posted by at March 24, 2016 3:10 PM