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My Quixote Moment

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It was July 1, 2002 when I had a ‘Quixote moment’. I had a shift in my thinking that said the world needed to be a better place. I started what I called The Quixote Project, a personal, one-man crusade to make the world better. Not unlike Alonso Quijana casting off his identity and taking up the mantle of Don Quixote, I too decided to try to see the world as it should be and not as it is.

It was three years later that I put up a website dedicated to the project. On that site I posted the following:

My first introduction to Don Quixote did not go well. I must have been twelve or so. My brother’s high school was putting on a production of Man of La Macha. My Mom suggested I go see it. She said it was about a knight that fought windmills. In my infinite twelve-year-old wisdom I thought this sounded kind of silly and declined the offer to see the play.

For years after that the Knight and I crossed paths but never really connected. I recall a public service commercial about good dental hygiene based on Don Quixote. Our class had to sing ‘Dream the Impossible Dream’ in school. TV shows had references to the Knight. I seem to recall a cartoon aimed at kids that presented a very abbreviated version of the story, no doubt one of those well-meaning ‘let’s introduce kids to the classics’ shows. I’m sure that I came across the actual book at some point but never picked it up to read it.

This is rather odd in light of the fact that I read almost everything else about Knights I could lay my hands on. I read all about the Knights of Camelot and King Arthur. I read lots of fantasy and science fiction. I watched every fantasy movie and TV show that came my way.

It wasn’t until I was in college that I finally focused on getting the story. My roommate had the TV on and Man of La Mancha was coming on. He asked if I had ever seen the movie and I told him no. He said I really should sit down and watch it and I’d probably enjoy it. So I sat down to watch it.

The rest, as they say, is history. I immediately fell in love with this mad Knight. People often accused me of living in my own world. The problem as I saw it was that I wasn’t living in my own world. I was very much part of this world. But here was this character that was not only part of this world but managed to live in his own world at the same time. And his world was so much better. It was a world where chivalry still lived. In Quixote’s world everyone was seen at their best. Even after doing battle with the muleteers Quixote still had respect for them and saw them in a good light. He lived by his Knightly code and made the world conform to it. A rundown inn became a stately castle, a shaving basin became a magnificent helmet, and a whore with nothing to live for became the most beautiful and respectable woman in the world. His vision was so powerful that he even pulled others into it.

I did eventually read the book during a trip to visit my sister. It would still be a number of years before I would follow in Quixote’s footsteps, but that is for part two of this essay.

It was many years after I encountered Don Quixote before I decided to follow in his footsteps. In the intervening years I went through my own search for God. (Strange saying that, as if God could get lost.) I have great respect for St. Francis of Assisi, as did Miguel Cervantes, the author of Don Quixote. It was in 2002 when I was reading a book on St. Francis that I finally had what I call my ‘Quixote moment.’ The book was The Sun and Moon Over Assisi: A Personal Encounter with Francis and Clare by Gerard Thomas Straub.

Strangely it was not St. Francis himself that lead to my Quixote moment. It was a follower of Francis, Maximilian Mary Kolbe, that was to have an impact on me. The book related how Maximilian had a vision of Mary when he was very young where she offered him two crowns, a white one for purity, and a red one for martyrdom. He accepted both. He eventually went into a Franciscan seminary and was ordained at the age of twenty-four. Years later, the Nazis invaded Poland and arrested Maximilian and placed him in Auschwitz.

As the story goes, a prisoner ecaped and the commandant decided to kill ten men in retaliation. One of the men had a wife and children so Maximilian stepped forward to take the man’s place. He was placed in a cell with the other nine men and starved to death. But he didn’t die. The Nazis finally came and injected him with carbolic acid to kill him.

I was shocked at reading this. Something was very wrong with this. No one should have to go through something like that, for any reason. Ever. I hit a point where everything fell in on me. It had not been a year since 9/11 and the tragedy of the World Trade Center. The War on Terror was still fresh. Other things came back to me – the first bombing at the World Trade center, the Oklahoma bombings, Timothy McVeigh, Jeffrey Dahmer, the Branch Davidians and Waco, Wanda Web Holloway…all of it was too much. It was clear that the world was crazy. Something had to be done. Sometimes the only way to battle a crazy world is to be crazy yourself.

And that is when Don Quixote and St. Francis sprang to mind. Both had lived in the same crazy world, but they found a way to make it better. I wasn’t sure what I was going to do but I knew that I was tired of the world as it was, and it was time to make the world ‘as it should be.’

So on July 1, 2002 I sent out the following e-mail to my family and friends:

Sent: Monday, July 01, 2002 2:02 PM
Subject: Having a Quixote moment


I find that I’m having a Quixote moment. Much like Alanso Quijana in the story of Don Quixote, I think I’ve read about knights and chivalry until my brains are drying up.

To further confound matters I’ve been reading up on St. Francis of Assisi in the book ‘The Sun and Moon Over Assisi’. He lived in a very violent and troubled time, yet still managed to promote peace.

I’m not exactly sure what I want to do, but I need to do something. I have seen the world as it is. Now is the time to see the world as it should be. I will most likely have a website involved since it is where my area of expertise lies.

Well, it took three years to actually get the website up and running, but I started working on changing the world back then. I’ve worked on my own attitudes and continue to work on them. I’m trying to find more ways I can be helpful to my community. I’m starting small but still keeping the end goal in mind – making the world a better place. I’m hoping this website will help me find other like minded individuals that want to help make the world a better place too.

Jul 01, 2005 – 11:16 PM

I kept up the website for a while, but it eventually fell by the wayside. Just as I was getting to start up the website again, I lost the domain name due to the domain registrar taking it off auto-renewal and me not renewing it in time.

I have not abandoned the project’s goals though. I’m still trying to make the world a better place. I have talked about doing one little thing every day before here on my blog. I had a section on the site called The Knightly Order Of Quixote (K.O.O.Q. – pronounced ‘kook’) where I invited others to join me on my quest. Only one other person ever contacted me about being a Knight.

If everyone did one small thing each day to make the world a little better, before long we’d have the most caliwandalous world. As Rufus said at the beginning of Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure, we’d have more excellent waterparks than any other planet we communicated with. We’d have something like the world at the end of Tomorrowland. We’d have a world where no one ever need fear windmills again.

Join me?

If you’d like to support my efforts, why not buy me a chocolate chip cookie through my Ko-Fi page?

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