In the heart
“Truth is not reflected in a mirror, but contained in the heart. It is often obscured by reality.” — Alan A. Malizia
One year ago today, my post mentioned Don Quixote, a literary character I’ve been hearing about all of my life. Our father is a fan of Quixote, especially as brought to life in the musical Man of La Mancha, the soundtrack of which played in the background of my childhood more times than I could count. I’m grateful for its timeless messages of courage, honor, and the refusal to give in to despair.
Recently I came across a review of the Quixote story that makes an interesting point about the difference between truth and reality. I am re-blogging it here from Alan Malizia of Contagious Optimism. I hope you will enjoy it, and remember its message the next time reality seems grim!
CONTAGIOUS OPTIMISM:Uplifting stories from around the globe.
Of Truth And Reality
March 16, 2014
Alonso Quixana (Don Quixote) is an aging gentleman who is enamored by and devours books about chivalry. He becomes so absorbed with the subject that he soon escapes reality as he fancies himself a knight, and travels about the countryside performing acts of imagined valor and good deeds. His world, as that of Cervantes, was anything but virtuous or chivalrous.
Quixana recruits a good-natured and keen-witted farmer, Sancho Panza, to be his squire (actually more of a protector), and onward they go. Windmills are seen as menacing giants to be vanquished, and ladies of the evening are seen as simply ladies, as beheld through the refined eyes of the brave and good knight. One woman in particular, Aldonza, he chastely adores. He chooses to call her by another name, Dulcinea, and envisions her his lady.
Of course the upright world, which he battles to uphold through his quests was at that time downright debased and debauched. However, Don Quixote saw it as it otherwise should be.Don Quixote’s virtuous behavior and insistence of compliance to the same, by those (often the dregs of society) whom he came upon, was first viewed as humorous and entertaining. But in time would become intrusive and threatening to their customary practices.
Yet his example, though a worldly contradiction to all, other than himself, began to have a converting effect. The prostitute Dulcinea began to see herself as a lady and act as such. And Sancho, who played along most unwillingly at first, became a dedicated and loyal companion with each new imaginary adventure.
Meanwhile, Alonso Quixana’s niece, being so embarrassed by his antics, feigns concern for his sanity and safety, and contrives a plan with the family doctor, Dr. Carrasco, to hopefully return him to his senses. Alonso (Don Quixote) is confronted by Dr. Carrasco, disguised as the Knight Of The Mirrors, and accompanied by compatriots dressed in armor and carrying reflecting shields. Dr. Carrasco challenges Don Quixote’s claim that his love, Dolcinea, is a lady. The doctor characterizes her as no more than an alley cat.
Don Quixote, angered beyond reason at this insult to his lady, takes up Carrasco’s gauntlet and is surrounded by those with mirrored shields. He is forced to see his image at every turn, which appears that of a madman. Reality strikes an overwhelming blow as the doctor’s disparaging and humiliating rants cut deep. Don Quixote falls to the ground after seeing the foolish dreamer that he is perceived to be. The plan succeeds because he returns to reality. For better or worse?
The mirror is where truth and reality come face-to-face. However, what you see is not necessarily what you get. If reality yields to truth, then there is order. Reality is subject to the variables of time and circumstance. Truth is not. If a couple is thinking about buying a house, but one says to the other, “In reality we cannot afford to buy now.” Does that mean forever? No, because with the passage of time, circumstances have an opportunity to change. So in the future, that same couple may have the means to purchase a house.
Now, if a person were to step off a ledge, in an attempt to refute the law of gravity, he will find that the outcome of his experiment will not be altered by time nor circumstance. The first is an example of reality, the second of truth. Conversely, let us suppose that truth yields to reality. Then there is disorder, in this instance, as truth changes congruently with reality by time and circumstance. If truth does change, then truth is a lie. Our friend on the ledge should then get a different outcome to his experiment on a Thursday, than he would have gotten on a Monday – which would then make the law of gravity a lie, and that is not the case.
For truth is ageless and beyond contestation. The story does not end with Alonso Quixana on his death bed, a beaten man. Present with him is his squire Sancho and his lady Dulcinea. They are overcome with grief, because the man that lay prostrate before them is not he who rekindled in their hearts the flame of goodness, charity and dignity. They remind him of the truth that he stood for in his quest to revive chivalry.
As he listens to their pleas, something stirs within him. His despairing heart is rejuvenated by their overtures of encouragement and love. He rises up vigorously and passionately promises to sally forth again. However, his endearing strength of spirit is too much for his frail and aged body to bear. As he succumbs to death, he is again Don Quixote, who passes from this world to the next, while in the arms of his lady and squire. He dies as he lived: a knight.
The image that Don Quixote beheld in the mirror was his reality, not his truth. His truth was in how he saw himself. And this, likewise, is how others saw him. The profound impression left upon those who crossed his path encouraged change (where once thought impossible) – and for the better. So much so that an Aldonza believed she could become a Dolcinea.
Takeaway: Truth is not reflected in a mirror, but contained in the heart. It is often obscured by reality. Yet truth’s existence is confirmed by its outward effectiveness. No matter how distorted the inconsistent worldly realities may jade a heart, there in its farthest corner truth abides: A truth that endures and ensures the restoration of life to its full goodness, for one who desires it enough to fight for it. Like Don Quixote, we too can fulfill our just cause. If in the end, we are found fighting still.
via Alan Malizia in Of Truth And Reality at Contagious Optimism.
One year ago today: