Tag Archives: blogging

Thoughts on “Don Quixote” – Part 6: The Symbolism of the Cave

donquixote_cave

On a hero’s journey, the hero often goes through a symbolic exploration of the subconscious mind. This can be represented by the hero going into water, the underworld, or a cave. For this reason, I was not surprised when Don Quixote entered a cave and explored the abyss within, emerging with an expanded consciousness.

Before undertaking a daunting task, heroes will summon strength from an outside source. Before entering the cave, Don Quixote calls upon Dulcinea for protection and guidance upon his journey into the underworld.

“O mistress of my actions and movements, illustrious and peerless Dulcinea del Toboso, if so be the prayers and supplications of this fortunate lover can reach thy ears, by thy incomparable beauty I entreat thee to listen to them, for they but ask thee not to refuse my favour and protection now that I stand in need of them. I am about to precipitate, to sink, to plunge myself into the abyss that is here before me, only to let the world know that while thou dost favour me there is no impossibility I will not attempt and accomplish.”

(p. 716)

After Don Quixote reemerges from the cave, he relates his experience to his companions. The visions he describes are consistent with altered states of consciousness. He actually describes how he slipped into a state of reverie prior to the shift in awareness that brought on the mystical visions.

“… and as I was thus deep in thought and perplexity, suddenly and without provocation a profound sleep fell upon me, and when I least expected it, I know not how, I awoke and found myself in the midst of the most beautiful, delightful meadow that nature could produce or the most lively human imagination conceive. I opened my eyes, I rubbed them, and found I was not asleep but thoroughly awake. Nevertheless, I felt my head and breast to satisfy myself whether it was I myself who was there or some empty delusive phantom; but touch, feeling, the collected thoughts that passed through my mind, all convinced me that I was the same then and there that I am this moment. Next there presented itself to my sight a stately royal palace or castle, with walls that seemed built of clear transparent crystal; and through two great doors that opened wide therein, I saw coming forth and advancing toward me a venerable old man, clad in a long gown of mulberry-coloured serge that trailed upon the ground.”

(pp. 719 – 720)

The old man that Don Quixote encountered was Montesinos, but I could not help but seeing him as a Merlin figure. In fact, Merlin is mentioned later in the chapter as having prophesized the arrival of Don Quixote (p. 723). And the castle being made of crystal corresponds to the crystal cave of the Merlin mythology.

The last thing I want to discuss is the distortion of time associated with altered states of consciousness.

“I cannot understand, Senor Don Quixote,” remarked the cousin here, “how it is that your worship, in such a short space of time as you have been below there, could have seen so many things, and said and answered so much.”

“How long is it since I went down?” asked Don Quixote.

“Little better than an hour,” replied Sancho.

“That cannot be,” returned Don Quixote, “because night overtook me while I was there, and day came, and it was night again and day again three times; so that, by my reckoning, I have been three days in those remote regions beyond our ken.”

“My master must be right,” replied Sancho, “for as everything that has happened to him is by enchantment, maybe what seems to us an hour would seem three days and nights there.”

(p. 725)

In addition to the distortion of time, there is some number mysticism woven in here. We have three days existing within one hour, or three comprising the one. I cannot help but wonder if this is a reference to the trinity forming the godhead (father, son, holy ghost), or the mind/body/spirit trinity within a human being. Additionally, it could be symbolic of the triple goddess (maiden, mother, crone). Regardless, we have a situation where the hero travels to the underworld, encounters a mystical being, experiences time distortion, and is presented with the number three as being connected to the mystical experience.

2 Comments

Filed under Literature

Thoughts on “Don Quixote” – Part 5: A Sonnet on Sancho Panza

sanchopanzastatue

The worthy Sancho Panza here you see;
A great soul once was in that body small,
Nor was there squire upon this earthly ball
So plain and simple, or of guile so free.
Within an ace of being Count was he,
And would have been but for the spite and gall
Of this vile age, mean and illiberal,
That cannot even let a donkey be.
For mounted on an ass (excuse the word),
By Rocinante’s side this gentle squire
Was wont his wandering master to attend.
Delusive hopes that lure the common herd
With promise of ease, the heart’s desire,
In shadows, dreams, and smoke ye always end.

(p. 538)

I find this sonnet, which appears near the end of Volume 1 of the text, both sad and sweet. On one hand, there is something so admirable about Sancho. He is a faithful and steadfast friend, who is always seeking to do the right thing. But alas, Sancho, for all his kindness, has one human flaw—the desire for comfort and ease.

As is often the case, seeking quick and easy comfort can lead you down the road that culminates in broken dreams, ashes, and sadness. The idea of comfort, for too many people, is nothing but the smoke of a pipe dream. And this is the case with Sancho. And sadly, as I look around me, I see so many people who share Sancho’s flaw. They think that following this leader or that idea will bring quick happiness and contentment. “If this person is elected, then all my problems will vanish and I will enjoy the American Dream.” But that is all it is; a dream.

There is a lot we can learn from Sancho Panza. It is important to be truthful, to be a good friend, to be trustworthy, and to follow our dreams; but we should also be careful not to pursue shadows or let our dreams lead us down roads that take us nowhere. There needs to be a balance between dreams and reality, between hope and striving. If we are not willing to do the hard work, then our dreams will never become realities.

1 Comment

Filed under Literature

Thoughts on “Don Quixote” – Part 4: The Portrayal of Women

quixoteandwomen

So for this post, I wanted to look at the way women are portrayed in Don Quixote. I’ll start by sharing a few passages and then provide my thoughts.


If, then, the mine of her honour, beauty, virtue, and modesty yields thee without labour all the wealth it contains and thou canst wish for, why wilt thou dig the earth in search of fresh new veins, of new unknown treasure, risking the collapse of all, since it but rests on the feeble props of her weak nature?

(p. 337)


At these words Luscinda looked up at Cardenio, at first beginning to recognise him by his voice and then satisfying herself by her eyes that it was he, and hardly knowing what she did, and heedless of all considerations of decorum, she flung her arms around his neck and pressing her face close to his, said, “Yes, my dear lord, you are the true master of this your slave, even though adverse fate interpose again, and fresh dangers threaten this life that hangs on yours.”

(p. 377)


I follow another, easier, and to my mind wiser course, and that is to rail at the frivolity of women, at their inconstancy, their double dealing, their broken promises, their unkept pledges, and in short the want of reflection they show in fixing their affections and inclinations.

(p. 525)


At first, I felt disgusted and angered at the way women are depicted in this book. I find it deeply offensive to assert that anyone’s race, gender, religion, or sexual orientation makes that person less than equal. I understand that ideas shift throughout history, and what is considered an acceptable belief at one point can be completely rejected at another stage in history, but that still doesn’t make it any more palatable to me.

But as I sat and pondered on this, an idea struck me that changed my view of how Cervantes was portraying women. This text is a complete farce. It is meant to be ridiculous and comical, while addressing truths between the lines. This made me begin to wonder if Cervantes was putting these beliefs out there as being ludicrous, in the same way that Don Quixote’s beliefs regarding chivalry are completely insane and comical. And the more I thought about this, the more it seemed to ring true for me. I believe that Cervantes was pointing out just how silly the established belief of women being lesser than men actually is. He basically used comedy as a form of social criticism, and I love that.

When artists challenge the paradigms of their time, humor is a great tool. It is less threatening, but still forces people to face their prejudices and biases, a tradition that is still alive and well thanks to SNL and Stephen Colbert.

1 Comment

Filed under Literature

Hillary Clinton’s Concession Speech

Earlier today I shared my thoughts on president-elect Donald Trump’s victory speech. I just watched and then read Hillary’s concession speech, and for me, the contrast was significant. I can only imagine how painful it must be to deliver a speech such as this, to come so close to something monumental and then fall short.

In my post on Trump’s speech, I highlighted the key point for me, so I will do the same here:

“And to all the women, and especially the young women, who put their faith in this campaign and in me, I want you to know that nothing has made me prouder than to be your champion.

Now, I know, I know we have still not shattered that highest and hardest glass ceiling but someday, someone will and hopefully sooner than we think right now.

And to all the little girls who are watching this, never doubt that you are valuable, and powerful and deserving of every chance and opportunity in the world to pursue and achieve your own dreams.”

As a father of two talented and independent young women, I am painfully aware of the challenges women face in our society. I hope that in their lifetime, our global society will see a paradigm shift and get to a place where there is true equality for women and all people.

Anyway, here is the transcript of the entire speech which I found on NPR website.


Thank you. Thank you all. Thank you. Thank you all very much. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you so much.

Very crowded room.

Thank you my friends. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you so very much for being here and I love you all too.

Last night, I congratulated Donald Trump and offered to work with him on behalf of our country. I hope that he will be a successful president for all Americans. This is not the outcome we wanted or we worked so hard for. And I’m sorry that we did not win this election for the values we share and the vision we hold for our country.

But I feel, I feel pride and gratitude for this wonderful campaign that we built together. This vast, diverse, creative, unruly, energized campaign. You represent the best of America and being your candidate has been one of the greatest honors of my life.

I know how disappointed you feel because I feel it too. And so do tens of millions of Americans who invested their hopes and dreams in this effort. This is painful and it will be for a long time. But I want you to remember this: our campaign was never about one person or even one election. It was about the country we love and about building an America that’s hopeful, inclusive and big-hearted.

We have seen that our nation is more deeply divided than we thought.

But I still believe in America and I always will. And if you do, then we must accept this result and then look to the future. Donald Trump is going to be our president. We owe him an open mind and a chance to lead. Our constitutional democracy enshrines the peaceful transfer of power. And we don’t just respect that, we cherish it.

It also enshrines other things: the rule of law, the principle that we are all equal in rights and dignity, freedom of worship and expression. We respect and cherish these values too. And we must defend them.

And let me add, our constitutional democracy demands our participation, not just every four years, but all the time. So let’s do all we can to keep advancing the causes and values we all hold dear. Making our economy work for everyone, not just those at the top, protecting our country and protecting our planet and breaking down all the barriers that hold any American back from achieving their dreams.

We spent a year and a half bringing together millions of people from every corner of our country to say with one voice that we believe that the American dream is big enough for everyone, for people of all races and religions, for men and women, for immigrants, for LGBT people and people with disabilities – for everyone.

So now, our responsibility as citizens is to keep doing our part to build that better, stronger, fairer America we seek. And I know you will.

I am so grateful to stand with all of you. I want to thank Tim Kaine and Anne Holton for being our partners on this journey.

It has been a joy getting to know them better and it gives me great hope and comfort to know that Tim will remain on the front lines of our democracy, representing Virginia in the Senate.

To Barack and Michelle Obama, our country owes you an enormous debt of gratitude. We thank you for your graceful, determined leadership that has meant so much to so many Americans and people across the world.

And to Bill and Chelsea, Mark, Charlotte, Aidan, our brothers and our entire family, my love to you means more than I can ever express. You criss-crossed this country on our behalf and lifted me up when I needed it most, even four-month old Aidan who traveled with his mom. I will always be grateful to the creative, talented, dedicated men and women at our headquarters in Brooklyn and across our country.

You poured your hearts into this campaign. For some of you who are veterans, it was a campaign after you had done other campaigns. Some of you, it was your first campaign. I want each of you to know to know that you were the best campaign anybody could have ever expected or wanted.

And to the millions of volunteers, community leaders, activists, and union organizers who knocked on doors, talked to neighbors, posted on Facebook, even in secret private Facebook sites…I want everybody coming out from behind that and make sure your voices are heard going forward.

To everyone who sent in contributions as small as five dollars and kept us going, thank you. Thank you from all of us.

And to the young people in particular, I hope you will hear this. I have, as Tim said, spent my entire adult life fighting for what I believe in. I’ve had successes and I’ve had setbacks – sometimes really painful ones. Many of you are at the beginning of your professional, public and political careers. You will have successes and setbacks too. This loss hurts. But please, never stop believing that fighting for what’s right is worth it.

It is. It is worth it.

And so, we need you to keep up these fights now and for the rest of your lives.

And to all the women, and especially the young women, who put their faith in this campaign and in me, I want you to know that nothing has made me prouder than to be your champion.

Now, I know, I know we have still not shattered that highest and hardest glass ceiling but someday, someone will and hopefully sooner than we think right now.

And to all the little girls who are watching this, never doubt that you are valuable, and powerful and deserving of every chance and opportunity in the world to pursue and achieve your own dreams.

Finally, finally I am so grateful for our country and for all it has given to me. I count my blessings every single day that I am an American. And I still believe, as deeply as I ever have, that if we stand together and work together with respect for our differences, strength in our convictions and love for this nation, our best days are still ahead of us.

Because you know, you know, I believe we are stronger together and we will go forward together. And you should never, ever regret fighting for that.

You know, scripture tells us, “Let us not go weary in doing good for in due season, we shall reap if we do not lose heart.” So my friends, let us have faith in each other. Let us not grow weary, let us not lose heart. For there are more seasons to come and there is more work to do.

I am incredibly honored and grateful to have had this chance to represent all of you in this consequential election.

May God bless you and may God bless the United States of America.

9 Comments

Filed under Non-fiction

Trump’s Election Day Speech

So because I am a reader, I had to read Trump’s election day victory speech. While most of it read like a television awards show, where he thanked everyone from his parents to staff, there was one line that stood out for me as expressing the crux of what just happened:

“The forgotten men and women of our country will be forgotten no longer.”

The fact is that there are many, many people who have been left behind in a world that is rapidly changing and difficult to understand. People who have made a living on skills that are obsolete in a technological world are frustrated, forgotten, and feeling left behind. These are legitimate feelings and Trump tapped into that sentiment.

For those of you who, like me, read and analyze text, here is the full text from Trump’s speech (from cnn.com).


Thank you. Thank you very much, everybody. Sorry to keep you waiting. Complicated business. Complicated. Thank you very much.
I’ve just received a call from Secretary Clinton. She congratulated us. It’s about us. On our victory, and I congratulated her and her family on a very, very hard-fought campaign.
I mean, she fought very hard. Hillary has worked very long and very hard over a long period of time, and we owe her a major debt of gratitude for her service to our country.
I mean that very sincerely. Now it is time for America to bind the wounds of division, have to get together. To all Republicans and Democrats and independents across this nation, I say it is time for us to come together as one united people.
It is time. I pledge to every citizen of our land that I will be President for all of Americans, and this is so important to me. For those who have chosen not to support me in the past, of which there were a few people, I’m reaching out to you for your guidance and your help so that we can work together and unify our great country.
As I’ve said from the beginning, ours was not a campaign but rather an incredible and great movement, made up of millions of hard-working men and women who love their country and want a better, brighter future for themselves and for their family.
It is a movement comprised of Americans from all races, religions, backgrounds, and beliefs, who want and expect our government to serve the people — and serve the people it will.
Working together, we will begin the urgent task of rebuilding our nation and renewing the American dream. I’ve spent my entire life in business, looking at the untapped potential in projects and in people all over the world.
That is now what I want to do for our country. Tremendous potential. I’ve gotten to know our country so well. Tremendous potential. It is going to be a beautiful thing. Every single American will have the opportunity to realize his or her fullest potential.
The forgotten men and women of our country will be forgotten no longer.
We are going to fix our inner cities and rebuild our highways, bridges, tunnels, airports, schools, hospitals. We’re going to rebuild our infrastructure, which will become, by the way, second to none. And we will put millions of our people to work as we rebuild it.
We will also finally take care of our great veterans who have been so loyal, and I’ve gotten to know so many over this 18-month journey.The time I’ve spent with them during this campaign has been among my greatest honors. Our veterans are incredible people.
We will embark upon a project of national growth and renewal. I will harness the creative talents of our people, and we will call upon the best and brightest to leverage their tremendous talent for the benefit of all. It is going to happen.
We have a great economic plan. We will double our growth and have the strongest economy anywhere in the world. At the same time, we will get along with all other nations willing to get along with us. We will be. We will have great relationships. We expect to have great, great relationships.
No dream is too big, no challenge is too great. Nothing we want for our future is beyond our reach.
America will no longer settle for anything less than the best. We must reclaim our country’s destiny and dream big and bold and daring. We have to do that. We’re going to dream of things for our country, and beautiful things and successful things once again.
I want to tell the world community that while we will always put America’s interests first, we will deal fairly with everyone, with everyone. All people and all other nations.
We will seek common ground, not hostility; partnership, not conflict.
And now I would like to take this moment to thank some of the people who really helped me with this, what they are calling tonight a very, very historic victory.
First, I want to thank my parents, who I know are looking down on me right now. Great people. I’ve learned so much from them. They were wonderful in every regard. Truly great parents.
I also want to thank my sisters, Marianne and Elizabeth, who are here with us tonight. Where are they? They’re here someplace. They’re very shy, actually.
And my brother Robert, my great friend. Where is Robert? Where is Robert?
My brother Robert, and they should be on this stage, but that’s okay. They’re great.
And also my late brother Fred, great guy. Fantastic guy. Fantastic family. I was very lucky.
Great brothers, sisters, great, unbelievable parents.
To Melania and Don and Ivanka and Eric and Tiffany and Barron, I love you and I thank you, and especially for putting up with all of those hours. This was tough.
This was tough. This political stuff is nasty, and it is tough.
So I want to thank my family very much. Really fantastic. Thank you all. Thank you all. Lara, unbelievable job. Unbelievable. Vanessa, thank you. Thank you very much. What a great group.
You’ve all given me such incredible support, and I will tell you that we have a large group of people. You know, they kept saying we have a small staff. Not so small. Look at all of the people that we have. Look at all of these people.
And Kellyanne and Chris and Rudy and Steve and David. We have got tremendously talented people up here, and I want to tell you it’s been very, very special.
I want to give a very special thanks to our former mayor, Rudy Giuliani. He’s unbelievable. Unbelievable. He traveled with us and he went through meetings, and Rudy never changes. Where is Rudy. Where is he?
Gov. Chris Christie, folks, was unbelievable. Thank you, Chris. The first man, first senator, first major, major politician. Let me tell you, he is highly respected in Washington because he is as smart as you get.
Sen. Jeff Sessions. Where is Jeff? A great man. Another great man, very tough competitor. He was not easy. He was not easy. Who is that? Is that the mayor that showed up? Is that Rudy?
Up here. Really a friend to me, but I’ll tell you, I got to know him as a competitor because he was one of the folks that was negotiating to go against those Democrats, Dr. Ben Carson. Where’s Ben? Where is Ben? By the way, Mike Huckabee is here someplace, and he is fantastic. Mike and his family Sarah, thank you very much. Gen. Mike Flynn. Where is Mike? And Gen. Kellogg. We have over 200 generals and admirals that have endorsed our campaign and they are special people.
We have 22 Congressional Medal of Honor people. A very special person who, believe me, I read reports that I wasn’t getting along with him. I never had a bad second with him. He’s an unbelievable star. He is … that’s right, how did you possibly guess? Let me tell you about Reince. I’ve said Reince. I know it. I know it. Look at all of those people over there. I know it, Reince is a superstar. I said, they can’t call you a superstar, Reince, unless we win it. Like Secretariat. He would not have that bust at the track at Belmont.
Reince is really a star and he is the hardest-working guy, and in a certain way I did this. Reince, come up here. Get over here, Reince.
Boy, oh, boy, oh, boy. It’s about time you did this right. My god. Nah, come here. Say something.
Amazing guy. Our partnership with the RNC was so important to the success and what we’ve done, so I also have to say, I’ve gotten to know some incredible people.
The Secret Service people. They’re tough and they’re smart and they’re sharp and I don’t want to mess around with them, I can tell you. And when I want to go and wave to a big group of people and they rip me down and put me back down in the seat, but they are fantastic people so I want to thank the Secret Service.
And law enforcement in New York City, they’re here tonight. These are spectacular people, sometimes underappreciated unfortunately. We appreciate them.
So it’s been what they call a historic event, but to be really historic, we have to do a great job, and I promise you that I will not let you down. We will do a great job. We will do a great job. I look very much forward to being your president, and hopefully at the end of two years or three years or four years or maybe even eight years you will say so many of you worked so hard for us, with you. You will say that — you will say that that was something that you were — really were very proud to do and I can — thank you very much.
And I can only say that while the campaign is over, our work on this movement is now really just beginning. We’re going to get to work immediately for the American people, and we’re going to be doing a job that hopefully you will be so proud of your President. You will be so proud. Again, it’s my honor.
It’s an amazing evening. It’s been an amazing two-year period, and I love this country. Thank you.
Thank you very much. Thank you to Mike Pence.

3 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

Appealing to the Masses

Great Orator, 1944 by Irving Norman

Great Orator, 1944 by Irving Norman

As we near the end of what may be the longest and most contentious election in US history, I have been thinking a lot about something I read in my college English Composition textbook (which I still have after all these years). It was in a section explaining how rhetoric is used to appeal to a crowd of people, and the importance of using key words that tap into the fears and prejudices of the audience. Anyway, here is the quote:

The streets of our country are in turmoil. The universities are filled with students rebelling and rioting. Communists are seeking to destroy our country. Russia is threatening us with her might, and the public is in danger. Yes, danger from within and without. We need law and order. Yes, without law and order our nation cannot survive. Elect us, and we shall by law and order be respected among the nations of the world. Without law and order our republic shall fall.

(Excerpt from speech by Adolf Hitler: Strategies for Successful Writing)

Fear seems to be the driving motivator in this election, and regardless of a person’s political inclination, fear and insecurity are the primary impetuses in candidate selection. People supporting Trump are afraid that they are losing their jobs, that they are not being heard and represented, and that the country is heading in a direction that contradicts their beliefs. On the flip side, people supporting Clinton fear increasing racism and intolerance, increased influence of corporate interests, and loss of women’s rights. Add to that the fact that everyone, regardless of political affiliation, is concerned about terrorist threats and political instability in other countries. Put all this together, and you have an election based upon fear, which is stoked by a media that seeks to capitalize on this widespread sentiment.

I am not going to tell you who to vote for, because it is your choice and you have the right to vote your conscience. I would encourage everyone, though, to take a step back, take a deep breath, and try to make a decision that is less fear based. It is tough—trust me, I know—but it is important.

Thanks for stopping by, and keep reading and thinking.

9 Comments

Filed under Non-fiction

Thoughts on “Don Quixote” – Part 3: Saintly Sancho Panza, a Christ Symbol

sanchopanzastatue

Sancho Panza is a very complex character. At first, I envisioned him as a manifestation of the fool archetype. He reminded me a lot of the fool in King Lear, cloaking wise perspective amid jokes, puns, and antics. But as I read on, the image of Sancho broadened and he appeared more and more as a saint. It could even be argued that he is a symbol of Christ himself.

First, consider that Sancho rides an ass and not a horse. When we remember that Christ rode into Jerusalem on a donkey, we have an initial parallel between the two.

Sancho describes himself as a man of peace, embodying saintly and Christ-like attributes. He also emphasizes his capacity to forgive others unconditionally, just as Christ was able to forgive.

“Senor, I am a man of peace, meek and quiet, and I can put up with any affront because I have a wife and children to support and bring up; so let it be likewise a hint to your worship, as it cannot be a mandate, that on no account will I draw sword either against clown or against knight, and that here before God I forgive the insults that have been offered me, whether they have been, are, or shall be offered me by high or low, rich or poor, noble or commoner, not excepting any rank or condition whatsoever.”

(p. 109)

Shortly afterwards, Sancho describes to Don Quixote how he was given the sign of the cross on his back, and how he endured the suffering with the same acceptance as Christ and other saintly martyrs.

“They gave me no time to see that much,” answered Sancho, “for hardly had I laid hand on my tizona when they signed the cross on my shoulders with their sticks in such a style that they took the sight out of my eyes and the strength out of my feet, stretching me where I now lie, and where thinking of whether all those stake-strokes were an indignity or not gives me no uneasiness, which the pain of the blow does, for they will remain as deeply impressed on my memory as on my shoulders.”

(p. 111)

At the wedding in Cana, Christ famously turned water into wine. In this text, Sancho Panza also exchanges water for wine, strengthening the correlation between him and Christ.

… but as at the first sup he perceived it was water he did not care to go with it, and begged Maritornes to fetch him some wine, which she did with right good will, and paid for it with her own money; for indeed they say of her that, though she was in that line of life, there was some faint and distant resemblance to a Christian about her.

(p. 131)

It is also worth noting the similarity here between Maritornes and Mary Magdalene. Both were women of “ill repute” who exhibited true spiritual values of compassion and caring.

So far, I find Sancho Panza a much more interesting and multifaceted character that Don Quixote, but I still have a way to go in the book. Thanks for stopping by, and as always, feel free to share your thoughts in the comment section.

5 Comments

Filed under Literature

Thoughts on “Don Quixote” – Part 2: At the Crossroads

Painting by Wilhelm Marstrand

Painting by Wilhelm Marstrand

One of the symbols that I have always found fascinating is the crossroads. Not only is it a representation of a point in our lives where we must choose a direction, but it is also an intersection between two realms: the conscious and subconscious, life and death, past and present. Maya Deren’s exploration of voudou offers great insights into the powerful symbolism of the crossroads.

Anyway, as I am continuing to read through Cervantes, I have noticed the symbol appearing in the text. In fact, Don Quixote states in no uncertain terms how important the crossroads are.

To which Don Quixote replied, “Thou must take notice, brother Sancho, that this adventure and those like it are not adventures of islands, but of crossroads, in which nothing is got except a broken head or an ear the less: have patience, for adventures will present themselves from which I may make you, not only a governor, but something more.”

(p. 65)

What is being expressed here is that the story of Don Quixote and Sancho Panza conveys more than what appears on the surface. It is not just an island in the vast sea of literature. It is a mystical place where the spiritual and the physical meet, where the veil between reality and the imagination is torn away.

Not long after this passage, Don Quixote and Sancho meet a group of shepherds at a crossroads who are on their way to a funeral.

They had not gone a quarter of a league when at the meeting of two paths they saw coming towards them some six shepherds dressed in black sheepskins and with their heads crowned with garlands of cypress and bitter oleander, Each of them carried a stout holly staff in his hand and along with them came two men of quality on horseback in handsome travelling dress, with three servants on foot accompanying them. Courteous salutations were exchanged on meeting, and inquiring one of the other which way each party was going, they learned that all were bound for the scene of the burial, so they went on all together.

(p. 86)

Here we have the intersection between life and death. The three plants that are mentioned—cypress, oleander, and holly—are all evergreens and symbolize the cycles of life, death, and rebirth.

I still have a long way to go in this book, and I suspect that Don Quixote and Sancho will find themselves at many other crossroads along their journey. I look forward to seeing which pathways they choose.

6 Comments

Filed under Literature

Thoughts on “Don Quixote” – Part 1: On the Addictive Power of Books

Eugène Delacroix

Eugène Delacroix

I recently decided to read Cervantes’ famous book, Don Quixote, mainly because I am planning a trip to Spain and figured I should read it before I visit. Also, it’s been on my reading list for a long time, but I’ve put it off, mainly due to the length. But I figured, now is a good time to read it. Since it is long and probably would not work as a single blog post, I decided to do a series of posts as I work my way through the text. For my first post, I wanted to write about the addictive power of books.

Cervantes begins the book by explaining that the protagonist is a person who is addicted to books, which is something I can relate to. Someone may ask: Can you really become addicted to books? I’d say yes. Addiction is the constant search for something that changes how you feel inside and ultimately serves as an escape from reality.

As is often the case with addiction, the obsession and constant immersion in the vehicle of escape causes one to lose touch with reality, which happens to the protagonist in this book.

In short, he became so absorbed in his books that he spent his nights from sunset to sunrise, and his days from dawn to dark, poring over them; and what with little sleep and much reading his brains got so dry that he lost his wits. His fancy grew full of what he used to read about in his books, enchantments, quarrels, battles, challenges, wounds, wooings, loves, agonies, and all sorts of impossible nonsense; and it so possessed his mind that the whole fabric of invention and fancy he read of was true, that to him no history in the world had more reality in it.

(p. 4)

As the barriers between reality and fantasy crumble, the protagonist decides to live the life described in the books he reads. He takes on the persona of Don Quixote and allows the literary realm of chivalry to become his dominant paradigm in real life.

In short, his wits being quite gone, he hit upon the strangest notion that ever madman in this world hit upon, and that was that he fancied it was right and requisite, as well for the support of his own honour as for the service of his country, that he should make a knight-errant of himself, roaming the world over in full armour and on horseback in quest of adventures, and putting in practice himself all that he had read of as being the usual practices of knights-errant; righting every kind of wrong, and exposing himself to peril and danger from which, in the issue, he was to reap eternal renown and fame.

(p. 5)

While this may seem extreme, there is a universal truth here that needs addressing. As thinking, sentient beings, we are the sum product of our experiences, and reading is an experience that directly impacts who we are as individuals. This leads to the question: Is it better to focus your reading on a single topic or idea, or should one read broadly and diversely? It appears that Cervantes is asserting that one should read broadly, that reading only one type of book will instill a myopic view of life and ultimately become a singular obsession.

As is often the case with addiction, family and friends will often attempt an intervention to help the suffering addict. This happens to Don Quixote. People close to him try to intervene by ridding Don Quixote of his books, essentially, trying to cure the addiction by taking away the drug.

But I take all the blame upon myself for never having told your worships of my uncle’s vagaries, that you might put a stop to them before things had come to pass, and burn these accursed books—for he has a great number—that richly deserve to be burned like heretics.

(p. 33)

So, at this point, I want to conclude by saying: “Hi. My name is Jeff, and I’m a book addict.” And yes, like Don Quixote, I often imagine myself in the realm of the books I read. I love losing myself in the world of imagination. But I think it’s a healthy addiction, as long as you maintain a firm foot in reality and read broadly. So to all my book-addict friends, go out and read something different and new.

Thanks for stopping by, and look for another post about Don Quixote soon.

8 Comments

Filed under Literature

Kabbalistic Symbolism in “Promethea: Book 3” by Alan Moore

Promethea_3

In this volume of the graphic novel, Sophie and Barbara (two incarnations of the goddess Promethea) proceed on a journey through alternate realms using the sephirot in the kabbalistic tree as a means to ascend the higher realms of existence. They begin by analyzing the diagram of the ten sephirot connected by the twenty-two paths. Barbara comments that the symbol resembles a game of hopscotch, which I thought was a clever analogy considering that the sephirot essentially allows one to “hop” into another realm.

Promethea_Hopscotch

The paths that the women take lead them from the lowest sephirah, Malkuth, which represent the physical world, and begin to work backwards toward the godhead. Following the reverse emanation from the divine crown, they proceed in this order:

  • Malkuth
  • Yesod
  • Hod
  • Netzach
  • Tiphereth
  • Geburah

While in each of the sephirot, they encounter symbols associated with each realm. The details are far too complex for me to elaborate on in this short post, but I will provide a couple brief examples.

When the women move from Malkuth into Yesod (Foundation), they cross the river Styx, symbolizing the transition from the conscious mind to the subconscious. It is the place where fact and fiction meet, creating the myth, which is eternal. It is associated with the moon, dreams, and imagination, all of which figure prominently in the text and the rich illustrations.

Next, they move into Hod (Splendor). This is associated with magic, mysticism, and the intellect. Here the path becomes the symbol for infinity and the women engage in a circular discussion that could go on for all eternity.

Promethea_Infinity

After exiting the loop of infinity, they continue through Hod and meet the god Hermes, who explains how language, story, and mathematics are the basis for our human reality.

Hermes:

Ha ha! Real life. Now there’s a fiction for you! What’s it made from? Memories? Impressions? A sequence of pictures, a scattering of half-recalled words… Disjointed hieroglyphic comic strips, unwinding in our recollection… Language. To perceive form… even the form or shape of your own lives… you must dress it in language. Language is the stuff of form. Mathematics, for example, is a language. Consider the forms it produces… This magic square of eight is called The Knight’s Tour. Connect its numbers in sequence and you produce the magic line of eight. Do you see? Mathematics is a language, a human invention, a fiction… and yet it creates such elegant form. It creates splendor. It creates truth.

Barbara:

So… everything’s made from language? We’re made of language? Even you?

Hermes:

Oh, especially me. How could humans perceive gods… abstract essences… without clothing them in imagery, stories, pictures… or picture-stories, for that matter.

Sophie:

Picture-stories?

Hermes:

Oh, you know: Hieroglyphics. Vase paintings. Whatever did you think I meant? Besides, what could be more appropriate than for a language-god to manifest through the original pictographic form of language?

Sophie:

Uhh… so like, what are you saying?

Hermes:

What am I saying? I’m saying some fictions might have a real god hiding beneath the surface of the page. I’m saying some fictions might be alive… that’s what I’m saying.

This only scratches the surface of the rich symbolism that is embodied in this book. Every page, every panel, contains both visual and textual symbolism and metaphor. But don’t be intimidated. While this is very complex and heady material, the story is still great and accessible, and the artwork is phenomenal. I highly encourage you to explore all the books in this series.

I will leave you with one more quote from this book, which I believe aptly sums up our reality.

“Man walks through a forest of symbols.”

Comments Off on Kabbalistic Symbolism in “Promethea: Book 3” by Alan Moore

Filed under Literature, Spiritual