I only have vague memories of reading Miguel de Cervantes’ Don Quixote in high school. In fact, I’m not sure we were even required to read the entire book, which might explain why I only remember small excerpts of it. No matter how hazy my memory is, however, there is one thing that anyone with even a passing knowledge of the novel remembers – windmills.
In case you perhaps don’t know what I am referring to, here is the story in a nutshell: Hidalgo Alonso Quixano reads so many chivalric novels that he eventually loses his mind and begins to do all sorts of crazy things to revive chivalry and dispense justice. One of the quests he embarks upon is to take down the “giants” he sees in the fields. Those “giants,” however, turn out to be windmills, but Don Quixote (the name Quixano ascribes to himself) refuses to believe this and sets about vanquishing these enemies.
This particular aspect of the tale has been referred to countless times in all different sorts of mediums, including in the song “Windmills,” by Toad the Wet Sprocket. The song was featured on the group’s 1994 album Dulcinea, which is still one of my favorite albums of all time. It is essentially an examination of how people can spend their lives chasing unrealistic dreams or expectations, using the Don Quixote reference of “too much time raiding windmills” as a metaphor.
As I mentioned in an earlier post, I am in the process of attempting to shed myself of some things which are not beneficial to me. My stubborn mind, however, keeps trying to convince me I need them or, even worse, that I can somehow bend them to my will and make them work for me. I should know better, but I keep imagining myself conquering the windmills and convincing everyone that the battle was somehow worth it. Perhaps I should quote another Don Quixote-inspired song here – “The Impossible Dream (The Quest),” from the 1965 Broadway musical Man of la Mancha.
Sometimes it’s difficult as a man to walk away from a perceived challenge, no matter how insurmountable that challenge may seem or how much it costs him to face it. We want to say any price is worth it and that we fought the good fight. In reality, though, some fights just can’t be won. Or it might be more accurate to say some fights are more worth fighting than others.