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On Being Unreasonable and Tilting at Windmills

Reflections on Don Quixote by the Marin Shakespeare Company… with thanks to Ron Campbell for an inspiring performance in the lead role


Don Quixote tilts at windmills so, he must be mad right? But what is madness exactly? The poet asks, “What is madness but nobility of soul at odds with circumstance?”

I ask, “Why must nobility of soul clothe itself in a woeful countenance?”

The weight of the world will crush any mortal and most gods too. Surely, we can find a different Atlas to hold up the sky. Is there no other path save madness for one who sees insanity all around and proclaims that henceforth they shall dedicate themselves to preserving the common good wherever and whenever it can be invoked and brought forward?


Have I gone mad, or have I reached a new level of sanity when I breathe in the dysfunction of politics and corruption, and breathe out a network of cooperating human beings taking care of each other by providing food, water, shelter, and dignity for all, before they attempt to solve any other issues?


My madness is not like that of that Quixote fellow in Cervantes’ novel, poor chap. His afflication was a romantic sickness for a time that elevated innocence. My madness has lost its innocence, it bears the crazy wide-eyed look of one who has seen the depths to which us-humans can descend yet who still sees the stars above as calling us to dream another dream.

I’m stricken with the evolutionary notion that human beings can and will become intelligent enough to design a future where all of the dreams that humanity has longed for in our past are within our reach, and that a bright future is possible. The nobility of my soul is at odds with the circumstances of the times in which I live. Friends tell me I'm unreasonable. They accuse me of utopian thinking. They say that the inertia is too great. That the time is too late. That such a futre never can be.

I remain steadfast in my madness. Oh, I'm not discounting or minimizing the fact that the passageway between now and that bright future probably isn’t wide enough to accommodate the 9 to 11 billion people alive today. Some difficult choices will need to be made among people who'll have many reasons to resist making those choices. Things will no doubt get uglier than they already are. Yet human beings are made of tough stuff. Call me crazy but I put my faith in us-humans.


I believe we can actually move through this period of collective madness in a relatively short time – say 30 to 50 years – to come to a place where we are able to make the world a much healthier, happier, more fulfilling place to live. Not just for human beings but for all the other life that we share this world with.


We need to be our own saviors now.

I mean no offense to the billions of people whose faith sustains them in difficult times and who gain great meaning, nourishment and purpose through the path of faith. If it helps you to beleive in a god or gods by all means do so. However, when it comes to navigating the tide that rises in the affairs of us-humans, god has yet to prove Herself or Himself a reliable design partner. There's no indication that anyone or anything is coming to save us from ourselves - we have to do that by turning to one another. By loving into death that which does not serve us while simultaneously harvesting that which will help us to save ourselves and remake our world.


There is a strange enchantment in certain forms of madness, especially those that go against conventional wisdom.

I'm entrained by those threads of thinking that travel crooked byways – attracting complexity – and creating a simplicity visible only once the whole becomes clear.

Have you ever had moments when you intuit a pattern before it’s actually formed?

Moments when your frame of reference shifts from center to periphery and back again. Moments that reveal layers of meaning your old frame lacked words for? Moments when you find you're infused by something that your soul longs to give expression to so you find yourself working out the gestures that will convey the ineffable? What of those moments? Are they magical thinking? Is it madness or sanity to see and name and move with what is hidden in the dark?


I ask: how mad is it to see shimmering magic where others see but a dull surface?


How much courage is required to raise high Rilke's daringly imagined arch?

Getting from our present mess to the bright future most long for requires astonishing bridges. Bridges that connect the deep feelings of the mind with the elevated thoughts of the heart and give strength to muscle and sinew as they find expression in remaking the world.


Will you surrender your imagination to the demands of reason?


When was the world ever reasonable?


Ken Homer • August 22, 2015


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