Monthly Archives: June 2012

Miguel de Cervantes’ Lessons in Life and Love Applied to the Modern World

In Don Quixote’s Impossible Dream

Though previously acknowledged herein, I cannot overstate my gratitude to the supplier of the thematic framework through which I could beget my own dear iteration of humanity’s common experiences.  I quote Cervantes often, indeed, for it was apropos; he is credited with writing, among other works, the first modern novel and we know it, The Ingenious Nobleman Don Quixote of La Mancha, and it is arguably the best novel ever written, a play within a play. For that and more, I envy him a due homage and respectfully respond in the manner of a quest within a quest. In so much as I recognize his alter-ego in Don Quixote, as a then modern-day Francis of Assisi; who too, could reason through the zeitgeist hypocrisy of his age, in the manner of a Christ figure.

The indomitable Cervantes was a Spanish nobleman of secondary royalty, a valiant soldier, and a grievously wounded war veteran cum enslaved emissary, following his capture by Algerian corsairs. His culmination of experiences led to a prolific though commercially unsuccessful career as a playwright, novelist and poet that consequenced his excommunication by the Spanish Inquisition, adding drear to his woefulness. These testaments of his reversals taught him, in part, to portray the human spirit in the mode of his aforementioned picaresque novel; predicated on his imaginations, brought to life in the character Don Quixote that called into question the normative incongruities that belied the ethos of the “Spanish Inquisition”, on both aesthetic and intellectual terms. Cervantes subjects Don Quixote to [mis]adventures thick with ordeals couched in anguish and torment that worked as a proxy to describe Cervantes’ sufferings; the strain of which I am too familiar with, having my own storied “adventures”. However, like Cervantes and Quixote I resurrected from the ashes of burning oppression and despair, in the manner of the proverbial Phoenix, imbued with a profound source of inspiration from which to write about my own self-metamorphosis. Needless to say, I am deeply empathetic to Cervantes’ altogether personal transformation; caused, perforce, by an inconsolable level of ruinous dehumanization and abyssal despair by virtue of a malicious campaign; waged by those who wielded, indiscriminately, their unchecked authority. Don Quixote’s voice resounds through the ages speaking the “truth” for anyone and everyone who has ever suffered political, social, religious, or any other form of persecution or suppressive adversity.  This truth of Cervantes metamorphosis, per se, is what spoke to me in terms deeply personal and served as the underlying thematic cadence that marched me through hell’s gates and back.  Cervantes’s greatest work has helped to lift his nation, his religion, and for that matter all nations and religions, and quite possibly the collective consciousness of the world, by teaching us to reach for the “stars”; and that questing, above all, matters most—and no less for the most famous quixotic knight errant—Don Quixote.

I would be remiss to a fault not to acknowledge translators of that opus, including Charles Jervas, Tobias Smollett, Samuel Putnam, J. M. Cohen, Walter Starkie, Burton Raffel, John D. Rutherford, and most recently Edith Grossman. Each in turn honored the work with their respective translations to English, a supreme tribute in and of itself to the original.  Many have contributed by adapting the story for the stage and later the silver screen, and so I owe thanks to the talents of Dale Wasserman for his book, Joe Darion for his lyrics, and Mitch Leigh for his music for the award-winning musical and film productions of Man of La Mancha. The show in its various guises has thrilled audiences around the world with a host of memorable performances given by an iconic cast of performers.  With respect to languages, I have chosen English, my native tongue, though Cervantes’s story was written in Spanish; and no other language other than Spanish can capture the sublime preciseness of the subtle nuances spread throughout his masterwork. Many of the words and phrases used throughout my work come from other languages (primarily Latin, French, Greek, Italian and German) that have gradually become accepted into the English language over time; and out of respect, I have left the Spanish language, by and large, reserved to Cervantes. However, I do note in my annotations and glossary section, in many cases, the origin language of those once foreign words that I have taken the liberty to use, as it took a world of languages for me to properly address the genius of Cervantes’s singular work.

In fine, this opus stands as a candid testimony of my especial gratitude for which I recognize upon my parents, while also demonstrating to my children a bevy of adoptable precepts, well-trodden, for a happy life; and, perchance to unite my family and friends, both in practice and spirit, by the notion that we can never overdignify an unqualified charitable respect for one another. Now to the purpose of this metaphrastic interpretation enciphered in an excursive tribute, which is tethered gravitationally to its primary antecedent, like to a celestial system, orbiting about a common center; my life’s denouement, which expresses the inexpressible love embedded in my soul for the one I love. In full-view of that love I have faithfully set down in uncut words this valentine dedicated to my indescribable Dulcinea, for whom I take a privileged care to describe—that the entire world shall know her now and forever. My Dulcinea has provided me with nothing less than the truest and deepest inspiration for the idiosyncratic impartment of my soul, duly delivered in this love-poem. Had it not been for her, I would, undoubtedly still be tilting at windmills.

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Appreciation for Sacrifice

It was love at first sight when my wife and I met some 20 years ago.  To bring the point home, on our first date I promised I would write and dedicate a book to her that would describe the entirety of my singular love for her, my eternal soul-mate.  She eagerly absorbed every word that I said, because the words were ours – it was about us. She chimed in with perfect pitch and we harmonized our feelings, our beliefs, our souls; it was magical.  Our connection was kinetic our potential unlimited; and somehow we knew we had to make this dream a reality.  There was one caveat about the book, however, in that I qualified my promise with the delivery thereof to be 20 years hence.  I explained that it would take all of those 20 years to translate and to project into words all that had just transpired between us at the instant “Love” had christened us eternal soul-mates.

I cogitated upon the incomprehensible universe of countless thoughts, spiritual stirrings, and fantastic imaginings over a 20 year period so I could set them down in the written work.  But first, I had to learn how to translate the language of the soul and transpose it with utter precision so as not to lose or deviate from the articulations pronounced by the soul.  This process or quest, as it were, required nothing short of a protracted and on-going inner-dialogue within the soul of myself; an odyssey of epic discovery involving sufferings and torments that I was, in time, able to vividly describe.  The result is my book “Don Quixote’s Impossible Dream”, which describes the manifestation of my unvitiated awareness, my expressed becoming, and ultimately my ability to reduce the language of my soul to writing.

In full appreciation of all my wife has had to endure through life, the full range of ups and downs, the myriad sacrifices, I recognized her sufferings that the veil of love can sometimes hide.  However, along the course of my journey I came to fully appreciate her sacrifices and sufferings.  This was the essence of her coming into being, into awareness; and because of my own conscious transcendental experience I was able to recognize her evolution through the same sort of process.  The recognition of which was mutual and as visceral as the love we felt when we first met; and at that point of recognition is when our love became complete.  It took all of 20 years; upon which, I presented her with the book I promised her on the day we met.

Imagine yourself attempting to describe or convey your love to the one you love in terms couched deep within the soul. My aim was to pierce the soul then delve deep into the richness that is love, with all manner of life’s joys and griefs in attendance; and, after 20 years of immersion into the soul, I emerged with my book in hand.  My promised dedication celebrates the richness of true love from its incipience; and since then, has aged beautifully, like a rare liquor; taking on the color and flavor of our marriage.

In order to frame my work I searched the cannon of western literature and there was but one choice that would do, one inspiration that I could frame the universality of ideals that suited my purpose; namely, Miguel de Cervantes’ epic, “The Ingenious Nobleman Don Quixote of La Mancha”.  Regardless of how over-whelming all the culminating sufferings of life, the arduous trials, and the hopes dashed; which when taken together, may seem to conspire against love.  Not so, from the richness of suffering comes the ideals attending love are born and nurtured; surviving the suffering is the trick, but when love is ready to be harvested the sufferings cease.  To accomplish the discovery and proof of this truth I reached further, quested harder, as I resolved to extrapolate, dare and conclude what it means to reach the unreachable star that resides sequestered in the soul; and let the hidden light shine through.

Forgive the presumption; but I offer inspiration born of love, I bridge truth with hope, I explore the infinite, I conquer myself so that I may become unconquerable.  I bring the past and future into the present, I surrender in order to be, I challenge in order to know, and I know in order to be, I must surrender the challenge.

I kept my promise and delivered precisely as I described, with honor and truth as far as for my wife and no less for myself.  Mine delving into the soul with high-powered resolution, of the most granular kind, reveals the essence of love, marriage, family and life.  Fittingly, my wife in-turn re-gifted the book back to me as an expression of her love with the caveat that it be shared with others.

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Love is Answering the “Call to Destiny”

There has been much written on the subject of “destiny”.  Here is what William Shakespeare had to say about destiny:  “It is not in the stars to hold our destiny but in ourselves.”  Whereas Ralph Waldo Emerson characterized destiny as: “The only person you are destined to become is the person you decide to be.”  The imponderability of destiny; at least for me, can be disambiguated by a syzygy of the term “will”: as in the will will will its destiny.

We are all subject to the “Called to Destiny”; whether or not to be, to do, or to act; and for this to happen we must rely on our will; which inspires, directs, and fulfills our destiny.  How do couples will their destiny successfully and continue to remain within the boundaries of compatibility, given the myriad contours of life that too often redirects one’s will; ergo, one’s destiny?  How can relationships survive the hazards, the temptations, the pangs that play against one’s will, one’s destiny?  The answer is that we must resolve to fortify our will, especially as the will is frail; and has been since the biblical “fall of man”.

Where can we find the strength to stay the course, and beat the odds such that we frail couples can remain compatible over time?  How can couples sustain their love for each other, and still thrive as individuals while simultaneously abiding to their solemn and irrevocable commitments to each other?  For some it is a matter of religious beliefs or constraints, for others it is a question of one’s moral compass or ethics, and for others it is a cost/benefit scenario, or any combination or degree thereof.  In all events, it is the will to fulfill one’s destiny that ensures the success of any relationship.  What is to be derived from that fulfillment?  It is a sustainable level of love and happiness that fuels the will towards that destiny (a destiny steeped in true-love); which again, circles back to love and happiness.  The cycle of will and destiny, love and happiness, becomes self-reinforcing―provided that each person in the relationship answer their personal “Call to Destiny”.  However, after you have answered the “Call to Destiny” as by your inner-voice; remember that that same inner-voice, from which the answer emanated, must be translated within the context of regular and open communication with the one you love, because the “Call to Destiny” is continuous and flowing.

Answering the “Call to Destiny” is like jumping into a river, a feat in and of itself for every couple.  If one of you remains put the river of life will pass that person by, and the other person will inevitably be carried along by life’s currents; and in-time you will lose sight of one another and the relationship dissolves.  If you both remain put than life will pass both of you by, which is a destiny unfulfilled.  Therefore it is important to recognize that the “Call to Destiny” must be answered with commensurate commitment equal to the flow of life; meaning, through the seasons of twists and turns, rapids and placidness, days and nights in order to build common experiences that act to bind both of you to one destiny indivisible and insoluble.

“Mindfully cognizant that to keep well the chaste heart

That I did win, I shalt not soon forget that she devised it so.”

In the words of Don Quixote, Man of La Mancha: “My destiny calls and I go.”

 

 

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“Chivalric Love” in a Modern World

Does “chivalric love” have relevance in today’s world regarding romantic relationships? Perhaps the best way to answer the question is to describe chivalric love by stating what it is not.  Chivalric love is hardly consigned to the notion of a pre-Renaissance abstraction about brave knights fighting dragons, competing in tournaments, and reciting poetry to beautiful damsels in distress who await their champion to rescue them from evil-doers.  It is not about a man’s blind servitude and obsequious obedience to a lady in-waiting; for fear that his failure in succumbing to her whims would destroy the aim of perpetuating a dangerous romance, complicated by the intrigues of courtly-love and its triangular implications.

I view chivalric love as if it were a lens having two sides in which to perceive “love”.  Looking through one side has the power to focus on “amore” and the other on “caritas”; the former is associated with worldly manifestations of love; whereas the latter deals with the essence of spiritualized love.   Amore trades in the materiality of success; measured by the accumulation of possessions, wealth, power, sex, and money that ignites the passions of men and women to align their interests to attain these ephemeral objects.  Caritas on the other hand deals with the ethereality of significance; measured by one’s charity, purpose, consciousness, and awareness that work’s to inflame the souls of men and women in order to align themselves with God, mankind, and one’s self for the achievement of an everlasting spiritual legacy.  A successful relationship between a man and a woman is predicated on a just proportion of amore and caritas; and when that occurs chivalric love comes into being.

Many men and women are incessantly encouraged to pursue the path of amore with every intention of pursuing the ideal self, by way of caritas, once material success is attained.  However; without caritas, in other words without charity in the chivalric sense, a life can never be perfected because the frenetic pursuit of material success precludes a life from obtaining humanistic significance.  Ask yourself, will your material legacy outlast even a generation; or by your chivalric charity, will the significance of your life have an everlasting spiritual legacy?  Chivalric love leads with caritas and with it comes amore; and there is no greater opportunity to give expression to chivalric love than with the one you love, your chivalric soul-mate.   The purpose of life is not to live it with the precept that when I am successful my life will be significant; rather, when I lead a significant life I will be successful.

In the words of Don Quixote, “Therein lied the virtue and the excellence of my enterprise, for a knight errant deserves neither glory nor thanks if he goes mad for a reason. The great achievement is to lose one’s reason for no reason, and to let my lady know that if I can do this without cause, what would I do if there were a cause?” — Cervantes

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