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Don Quixote v. Pilgrim's Progress

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I will make a double confession. Some years ago, before moving to CR although lingering into my first adventures here, I finally read Don Quixote. The second part of this confession is that, after I finished the book, I had no idea why anyone thought it important. So OK, a goofball wannabee knight has some silly adventures. What's the big deal? My kid, a literary type, even gave me some other stuff to read about Don Quixote, something about the Spanish Civil War, very abstract stuff. I didn't get Don Quixote.


A few days ago, no single epiphany, I finally thought I did. My hunch is that Don Quixote is kind of a master narrative for Latin America, something like Pilgrim's Progress is in North America. That is, people tend to create their stories within the structures of an overall cultural narrative, and my guess is that North and South American have different basic narratives. In the north, it is all about practical-minded people systematically working to attain their goals and ultimately succeeding against all odds. We all know the ending. The hero beats his rivals, succeeds in his endeavors, gets the girl, and rides off into the sunset. The Don Quixote narrative is quite different. It's about a romantic adventurer on a misguided quest for glory, but admirable precisely for his defiance of reality and loftier aspirations. In the end, the hero loses to his rivals because he was a goofball to begin with, he therefore fails in his endeavors, the girl ends up working in a brothel, and instead of riding off triumphantly into the sunset he trudges through the desert hoping he has enough pesos to get a beer at the closest bar. The Don Quixote narrative is one of laughter, laughing at yourself, while the North American narrative is deadly serious, except when it laughs at losers like Don Quixote.


If I am right to contrast these two narratives, I suspect that we find the Quixote narrative in so-called "magic realism." The characters in "100 Years of Solitude" are after all like Quixote in that they are driven by nutty schemes that nevertheless, were they not so nutty, would almost be admirable. It's like they mean very well despite being utter screw ups.


Of course, I think I see the narrative everywhere. One place I see it is frankly in business. I am amazed by how quickly businesses open and then fold in CR. It is as if people start businesses that "seemed like a good idea at the time," but then if they don't make a profit in a short period of time they give up. I see it in job applicants, who go through all the bother of dressing up to interview for a job, get it, and then don't show up for the first day of work. I see it in the revolutionaries outside of CR but common in Latin America, the dozen or so guys in the jungles who make a few raids but don't really have a clue for how they will pull off their revolution. They're like, "It seemed like a good idea at the time," at the bar afterward. I see it in literal romance, where what was hot and heavy under the full moon on Saturday night results in a mysterious no-show the next week. It is as if, "Well, Saturday was fun, but everybody knows that wasn't real life." It is as if any goofball plan is fine at the moment, but everybdy knows it's only a goofball plan and that's OK.


If I am onto something, I think the next question--to which I do not have an answer--is how meaning and purpose are extracted from the Quixote narrative. Mind, I do not know how they are extracted from the North American narrative. I have always wondered what happens after the hero rides off victorious into the sunset. Real life doesn't end there, unless you conclude that the person with the most toys in the end wins. So let's not sing the praises of the North American narrative. However, I am puzzled by how meaning and purpose are extracted from a Quixote narrative--like launching a goofball plan that you expect to fail is purposeful? I don't know, maybe it's the style and romance with which the goofball plan is launched that makes it meaningful.



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Since I've spent more time in Korea, Germany (under guise of military) than CR, anything i add is weightless, however i have to groan when i read again today the keystone cops lose another 3oo+kilos of coke from their locked down warehouses. Ya think someone will get fired? The revolving court system door, government lackluster methods and educational stalemate all play a part of the CR culture. But USA is sliding down that slope. NOBODY can tell me the USA workethic of 50yrs ago endures today. Might i venture that the Don Quixote culture paints a picture of a socialistic society.

Kenn writes "In the north, it is all about practical-minded people systematically working to attain their goals'. In the north I see 50%droupout rate, entitlement mentality that's about to take a moonshot in the stated goal of REDISTRUTION of tax dollars, jobs galore if'n your mexican (work ethic). Do you recall the guy whom told Obama at one of his townmeetings "I've worked at McDonalds for 4yrs and I want to know what you can do for people like me whom are having a hard time making ends meet". The answer was obvious but didn't get said - take advantage of govt. assistant educational benefits and make yourself more valuable. The new N. American is part of the magical kingdom where reality shows and lottery is the best way to riches. It's owed to us. and entitlements are going to increase exponentially. Think post office, license bureau, city hall, public defenders, public arts and the boatload of jobs being made on par with CR's parking attendents. Too big to fail becomes too important to fail and so give me food, car, gas card, living quarters, drugs. So back to the cocaine fiasco. You're hearing the rumblings that we need to make illicit drugs legal. yA think this admin. sticking with the JUST SAY NO!?


While I'm spouting off, last night i wanted to listen to the Steve Winwood song "Higher Love" but seems i have to download software and perhaps pay a fee (listen not archive it). Wonder why they can't do that with all the pornograhic crap that inundates the internet?

Happy Easter Season to all

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In North America the historic epic is "it is all about practical-minded people systematically working to attain their goals and ultimately succeeding against all odds."


And in Latin America the historic epic is: "It's all about honor and emotions and nothing to do with logic and success."


I agree and propose a new epic: "How both were combined brilliantly to the betterment of all."


Now there's a quest the old Don would ride for.


Any takers?

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It's all about honor and emotions and nothing to do with logic and success.


Thanks, folks, and I must say that MiamiDavid seems to grasp the essence of what I am pondering. I'm still wondering how this all wraps around into an umbrella web of meaning, but maybe if I just proceed with passion and dignity it won't matter.

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Thanks, folks, and I must say that MiamiDavid seems to grasp the essence of what I am pondering. I'm still wondering how this all wraps around into an umbrella web of meaning, but maybe if I just proceed with passion and dignity it won't matter.




I remember what an older Latino told me many years ago, "Hey man, it's Miami. It don't matter how good you are. It only matters how good you look doing it!" He has been right more times than I can remember.


Instead of tilting windmills we used to pull the dragon's tail.

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  • 3 weeks later...

My take on Don Quixote is that he is one of the Archetypes, like Moses and Milarepa and even Don Juan in Carlos Castenada's books. There is a corresponding phase of the disintegration/re-integration of the psyche, the path Carl Jung described in his writings.


Like any other archetype, Don Quixote represents something fundamental and common to all of us, a part of us that is seeking to be re-integrated into a whole being. And that search is what the very existence of some few is all about... Anyone who stretches to become something more, to see beyond themselves even in a world that considers such seeking to be the task of fools is Don Quixote at times.


We all joust with windmills.. and it's not a windmill we are fighting, it's that fellow we see in the mirror every morning when we get up, immediately forgetting completely whatever it was we were just dreaming.




I once asked the Black Mountain College poet Ed Dorn what book he would take with him if he knew he was to be stranded on a desert island and he could only take one book.. he answered without hesitation "Don Quixote". Surprised, i asked him why. "Because of its size". I think he was more interested in the paper than the words on them, but then being stranded on a desert island would probably make a pragmatist out of me too. :P

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May 14, 2009

Director Gilliam Back In Saddle For "Quixote"



Filed at 11:22 p.m. ET


CANNES (Hollywood Reporter) - Terry Gilliam may no longer be tilting at windmills. The filmmaker has teamed with Oscar-winning British producer Jeremy Thomas to bring "The Man Who Killed Don Quixote," his long-blighted take on the tale of the Spanish knight, to the big screen.


Screenwriter Tony Grisoni ("Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas") has worked with Gilliam to reimagine the legend, and the script revolves around a filmmaker who is charmed into Quixote's eternal quest for his lady love, becoming an unwitting Sancho Panza.


The partnership is the latest twist in a moviemaking saga almost as epic as the 17th century classic by Cervantes on which it's based.


Nine years ago, the original shoot suffered a series of setbacks captured in the documentary "Lost in La Mancha," which went on to become a cult hit in its own right.


Thomas, in Cannes, described the project as "irresistible," while Grisoni added that there is no escaping some pacts. "Nearly 10 years on, I find myself lending a hand to get that crazed, giggling bedlamite back in the saddle. I'm talking about Don Quixote. In spite of God and the devil, he shall ride again," Grisoni said.


The movie is scheduled for a spring shoot. Gilliam's latest, "The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus," which contains the final screen performance by Heath Ledger, unspools Friday at the Cannes Film Festival.

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