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Nov 08 2011

In Praise of Don Quixote: an ode to sacred masculinity

by Elaine Drolet

don quixote - wind mills

Once upon a time on Earth—it could be anywhere in the middle of our infinite space-time—there was a Man. From the very dawn of time, he’d felt a profound love of Life and the Universe. He felt it with an unshakeable certainty matched only by his unfailing resolve to help the world evolve and to make a difference during his brief passage on Earth. Unfortunately, he eventually forgot why he had come to this planet. He was left only with vague memories that didn’t seem to come from his own mind. Occasionally, a chance meeting with another human being would fill him with a sense of compassion and a feeling of nostalgia for a hidden past. It was like a sweet, innocent voice speaking directly to his heart, saying, “You are courage, action, and determination. You are idealism, creativity, and vitality. You are passion, madness, and ambition.  You are love.” With these words, he would be consumed by a boundless energy. He could imagine the most astounding dreams and plans. But increasingly, that voice was becoming only a faint echo, and he felt as if he were alone on this planet, waiting for something. Or was it someone? He didn’t even know anymore.

Over the centuries, his mothers and fathers had told him countless times to do something with his life. Through innumerable conquests, he’d tried to do just that. He didn’t want to disappoint the ones he loved. He wanted to live up to their expectations, and that meant doing something, not just being something. The pressure caused him to undergo a profound transformation.

His courage turned into a war against anything that made him afraid.

His drive to act was twisted by fear of judgment and became a desire to perform.

His powerful will turned into an illusion of invincibility.

He drowned his idealism in a sea of pragmatism.

His intoxicating creativity settled into solid planning.

His toughness increased to the point of insensitivity.

His passion and impulse proved no match for his reason and steadiness.

His colorful madness faded to a grey prudence.

His boundless ambition was reined in by his need for control.

What he had previously done with love, he now did out of a sense of guilt. The least gesture, the smallest word that didn’t match the model he had constructed and projected gave him a profound sense of inadequacy. Deep down, what ate away at him more than the fear of failure to do his duty was a profound sense that he couldn’t live up to his image. He didn’t recognize himself. He felt like he didn’t even exist. A bleak world was beginning to take shape. A world of artificial Men and artificial Life. The world needed a hero that could rescue true Masculinity, and only one man could do that—Don Quixote.

Honore Daumier - Don Quixote

It was a strange quest, because he normally rescued damsels in distress. At least, that’s what he thought. In fact, what really mattered wasn’t what he did, but how he did it. Don Quixote was the very essence of Masculinity. He had never forgotten what that meant. One day he met our Man. In his naturally friendly way, Don Quixote asked Man about his life. He was astounded to learn that what weighed on Man’s mind were things like the burden of aging parents, slacker sons, demanding and ungrateful bosses, family arguments, overburdened healthcare systems, market fluctuations, and rising gas prices. Don Quixote honestly couldn’t figure out what any of that had to do with the Man’s life. So he told him: “You’ve told me about other people and about what’s happening in the world, and it’s all very interesting, but you haven’t told me anything about your life. Look at me, for example. I have quests. I have giants to battle, damsels to rescue, dragons to slay, and castles to storm. Every new day brings a surprising new adventure and an opportunity to grow.” The Man didn’t see the point of all the battles waged by the valiant knight, but he was fascinated by his joyful energy. The Man hadn’t felt that way himself in a long time.

“Don Quixote,” he said, “I don’t understand what it is you do, but I have to say I envy what you are. What is your secret?”

“Well sir,” answered Don Quixote, “I don’t understand what you do either, but that isn’t what matters. My actions are guided by intention. When I get up, I’m excited to discover what this new day has in store and how I can be of service. There is always a situation requiring my personal strengths and talents. Man was meant to create life, not control it. If I always knew ahead of time what I had to do, life would be quite dull! So every day, I muster the courage to be open to what life brings, without judgment or over-analysis. Life’s daily gift of experience is what fuels my action, my idealism, and my trust in the moment. Because I don’t really know how to plan, I must look inside myself for new ideas and solutions to the challenges I face. It forces me to become a fountain of creativity. I also have to be tough, because I’m responsible for my own success. My battle cry is that nothing is impossible. Of course, some say I’m mad, but my madness is better than their reason, because it lets me push past the apparent boundaries of the world. When I go to bed at night, I’m happy, because I know why I spent another day on Earth. I feel a sense of love and gratitude.”

The Man had a lot to think about when he went home that night. He kept thinking about a song by the Quebec poet and singer Sylvain Lelièvre. It went something like this:

“They’ve sold off all the windmills, and the children have grown old. The fools are running for the hills, and there’s no end to winter’s cold. We know more about contracts than about human contact. We’ve lost our spontaneity, we’re so sane, it’s an insanity. But the sun is rising on a brand new day, and we can use it to find a new way. In every moment, there is something to find, if like a child, you open your mind.”

There’s an old saying to the effect that men are eternally children, but I prefer to think of them as Children of the Eternal. If they’re struggling to find a place in the modern world and if they are no easier to define than women, could it be because humans, regardless of gender, have forgotten how to enjoy Life? Our seriousness, our need for control, and our common insecu-rities make it difficult to forge the relationships that are at the heart of our existence. We need these relationships to express the very essence of our creativity and to use our ability to build our own future.

About the author

Without a pedigree to show a specific role to play, I am Elaine. I define myself in relationship to others, like a mirror, an experience. Every day presents me with the opportunity to discover who I am. My senses reveal life to me in all its beauty and depth. My heart beats to the rythm of sensitive encounters, the laughter of children, and life's everyday pleasures. I am without age, gender or nationality. I live in the universe or rather the universe lives in me. I am as indistinct as I am vast, as nationality. I live in the universe or rather the universe lives in me. I am as indistinct as I am vast, as abundant as I am empty, as limited as I am infinite. It's wonderful. I breathe, I feel, I live, like you do...

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