top of page
Search

The Madness of Don Quixote


When life itself seems lunatic, who knows where madness lies? Perhaps to be too practical is madness. To surrender dreams — this may be madness. Too much sanity may be madness — and maddest of all: to see life as it is, and not as it should be!
Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra, Don Quixote

It is cooler today. Pleasant, in fact.


I am back at The Library at the End of the World (which, I have just discovered to my chagrin, doesn't open until noon on Wednesdays; I was hoping to fill my water bottle at their free water fountain but I suppose I will just sit here outside on the concrete bench instead) after a refreshing bout of kickboxing, where I punched and kicked things in pursuit of some form of physical improvement, which may also perhaps lead to emotional improvement, which, ultimately, through some unaccountable mystical transmogrification (which one may fervently hope for and convince oneself to believe in, but honestly should not be relied upon), lead to spiritual improvement.


As you can see from the previous verbal abomination, I have been reading too much Beckett.


I am currently reading his novel "Murphy" which, I must say, is pretty heavy sledding. I have always considered myself exceptionally literate and am usually able to track with even the most highfalutin' vocab. However, when reading Beckett, one really must keep a dictionary at hand.


So far I have had to look up (in the "a"s alone) asthenia, akousmatic, amnion, aeruginous, albada and ame damnee; never mind triorchate, isonomy, naevus, and tundish. And I'm only up to page 53.


I get the feeling that it was for writers like Beckett that the phrase "too clever by half" was invented.

On the other hand, at his best he is beyond brilliant. Consider the opening line of "Murphy":

The sun shone, having no alternative, on the nothing new.

If that reads as flat, banal, cynical, and even a bit cutesy to the modern reader, that is not surprising, given the long literary shadows cast by that dry Aspergerish tone. "Murphy" was written in 1936, when the New York Times best seller list was topped by that juggernaut of schlock, "Gone With The Wind" (which opens with an assurance to the reader that Scarlett O'Hara was NOT beautiful, except actually everyone thought she was because she was so charming; an early and influential example of the obliviously beautiful trope which would echo down to such dubious fan-fic knockoffs as "Twilight" and "Fifty Shades of Grey") and one hears the resonance of Beckett's anomie in the future opening of William Gibson's "Neuromancer" (1984):

The sky above the port was the color of television, tuned to a dead channel.

One also suspects inspiration from the opening of T.S. Elliot's "The Wasteland" (1917):

Let us go then, you and I,
When the evening is spread out against the sky
Like a patient etherised upon a table

This particular literary lineage is becoming more important to me. I've always had a natural affinity for the drab, self-limiting and banal, being a GenXer; we are known as a cynical and anti-authoritarian lot (not to mention somewhat prone to a kind of generational Asperger's which, don't get it twisted Gen Z, we invented first.) On the other hand, there are things about writers like Beckett and Elliot and Gibson that are coming to seem unsatisfying to me. Dissatisfying even.


Hopelessness is a natural and logical response to an existential moment in which hope itself seems a delusional concept, more so by the day. But, on the other hand, one must consider the benefit of hopelessness to the structures of power. One can do nothing, so one does nothing, and Langley and Soros and Putin and Xi and the Rothschilds and the Rockefellers and Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump (feel free to insert whatever shibboleth you want to imagine holding the ratlines in their grubby hands) are well satisfied.


It's a conundrum. To believe one can do anything seems deluded; to accept that one can do nothing seems fatalistic.


(I've just noticed something interesting about that previous sentence. The first half of it is true regardless of whether you put the emphasis on "do" or "anything". But when you play around with emphasis on the second half of the sentence, interesting things happen. "To accept that one can do nothing seems fatalistic" is true, of course. But how about "To accept that one can do nothing seems fatalistic"? That strikes me as untrue. As a matter of fact, accepting that one can, simply, do nothing might actually be the way out.


Personally, I have decided to go mad--which is a form of doing nothing, if one commits to doing nothing which is in accordance with the definition of sanity promulgated by the media, the state, the oligarchs, the corporatocracy, and so on and so forth.


To be clear, I have no interest in the kind of madness that results in my submission to any institution of authority (a madhouse or a prison) so my madness must, of necessity, come with some minimal veneer of respectability. One must keep the car registered, after all. Perhaps the key phrase to consider is "plausible deniability."


If one decides to go mad, and yet keeps the car registered, then what is madness anyway? Perhaps it is nothing more than honesty. I'm tired of lying. I'm tired of pretending to be who I am not, accepting the manifestly unacceptable, participating in the obscene.


I have always been a liar, a smiler, a people-pleaser, a helper. For the most part, these instincts come from an authentic desire to be pleasant and kind, but sometimes they do not. Sometimes I would much rather tell people what I really think of them. I don't because I don't want to hurt them, or arrogate to myself the position of judge. Usually, though, it's more a matter of selfishness and convenience. I don't want to waste my breath. Most people who need to be told off are also the ones who are the least capable of changing. So I don't bother. I hold my peace, hold my tongue, seethe and simmer.


Perhaps my version of madness will allow me, finally, to waste my breath. I'm already wasting it every day, breathing in and out on this doomed planet. What's another puff or two?


As I have been sitting here a couple of people have come up and spoken to me. One was a young woman who was very annoyed that the library didn't open until noon. "That SUCKS!" she said, and I sympathized profusely. There was also a young mother with her very small daughter (who, I came to find out, is named Ella). She was also surprised the library was closed, as the website apparently indicates otherwise. Again, I sympathized. I smiled and waved at Ella. The mother asked me if they could still return books when the library was closed, and I directed them to the drop chute up the way. I am basically a library ambassador.


Anyway, I guess I mention this in closing because I do, quite often, think about children like Ella. I'm getting to the grandmotherly age, and I feel quite rotten about the world we are passing along. I suppose every person of grandmotherly age in every era has felt some kind of similar pang; the world is always ending, after all. Children continue on until they don't. Whether we will or not, this planet is doomed. The sun will go supernova, the galaxies collapse. There is no escape.


(Which, I thought would lead me to an awesomely satisfying closing line, because I thought "No Escape" was also a play by Beckett, which would have allowed me to tie all this up with a relevant quote into a tidy New Yorkerish bow. But apparently I have misremembered, and "No Escape" is actually a James Cameron movie of little distinction. I will make an attempt at a tidy New Yorkerish bow nonetheless):

Jack: We've gotta get over to that roof.
Annie: What? No way!
Jack: Annie, listen to me. Over there we have a chance.
Annie: Over there, we don't know what's over there. They could be the same kind of people over there.
Jack: All I know is we gotta keep putting 10 steps between us and them. Okay? You're going to jump first then I'm going to throw the kids over one at a time. Then I'm going to follow. Okay? Come on, you can do it.
Annie: Okay. How? How?
Jack: You can do it. Go! Go!
Jack doesn't know what's on the roof of the nearby building. All he knows is that they need to keep moving away from these enemies and that roof is 10 feet further from them than the one they're on right now.

Better than Beckett, honestly.

34 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All

Comments


bottom of page