Tuneful Tuesdays: Windmills

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.

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Tuneful Tuesdays

I’ve shared a couple of songs here recently that held special meaning in my life and helped me navigate some of the darker times, and I’ve thought for a while about setting aside one post a week to shine a spotlight on more such songs. So, without further ado, welcome to the debut of “Tuneful Tuesdays.”

Today’s selection, “Throw It All Away,”  is from Toad the Wet Sprocket’s 1997 album Coil. While I’ve always said I’m more of a fan of the band’s previous effort, Dulcinea, Coil actually contains a number of songs which spoke to my cluttered emotions. Cuts such as “Dam Would Break,” “Don’t Fade,” and “Whatever I Fear” wrestle with crises of faith, which is a fairly common occurrence for depressed folks such as myself. The musical style is a little heavier, too, and I’m a sucker for loud guitars.

“Throw It All Away” stands out (in my mind, at least) as the sliver of light in an otherwise fairly bleak collection of songs. There’s a great amount of hopefulness to it, and it actually offers some pretty sound advice, such as:

Take the dreams that should’ve died
The ones that kept you lying awake
When you should’ve been all right
And throw ’em all away

It’s one of those songs I always turn up a little louder in the car and sing along with. I even sang this out with a band once (with all apologies to Glen Phillips). I don’t know if I did a good job, but it sure was fun singing it. So turn it up, raise your voice, “and start again.”