Tilting Towards Wonder: Excerpt from Actor’s Devo November 22

Posted: November 22, 2011 in Devotionals
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November 22

The Man of La Mancha, or the man of stained reputation if you prefer the hidden meaning in his name, is one of the most Christo-centric plays ever to be brought to Broadway.  Ostensibly it was written as a tribute to the great Spanish novelist Cervantes.  In both, the main character is one Don Quixote…a last name that hearkens to its meaning “quixotic”, meaning, the foolish and impractical pursuit of lofty and unattainable ideals.  Indeed this is precisely what Don Quixote is and what he does.  Because he had has gone a little loco in la cabeza , the nobleman Alonso Quixcano decides that he is a knight errant fro his country and must forthwith set out to right wrongs and rescue those who need rescuing.   But first, being a good knight, he musts find a page.  In reality he finds a poor farmer Sancho Panza, and presses him into service.  In the course of their travels, the protagonists meet innkeepers, prostitutes, goatherds, soldiers, priests, escaped convicts, and scorned lovers. These encounters are magnified by Don Quixote’s imagination into chivalrous quests. Don Quixote’s tendency to intervene violently in matters which do not concern him, and his habit of not paying his debts, result in many privations, injuries, and humiliations (with Sancho often getting the worst of it). Finally, Don Quixote is persuaded to return to his home village.  The libretto from the play is much the same although, in an effort to explain the broader meaning of the book and story, it has Cervantes (the author) defending his new, nearly finished manuscript to a group of fellow prisoners.  They are all spending some time in goal as guests of the Spanish Inquisition.  Of particular note is one Aldonza who is a self-described whore…though judging by her name a sweet one, Aldonza means sweet.  Quixote is convinced that she is the lady Dulcinea, a name that also means sweet by the way.  He treats her so royally and chivalrously, that she eventually believes it herself.  Despite the fact that she and Sancho think Quixote is a bit ridiculous, and totally insane, despite the fumbling and bumbling into the, somehow, correct solution to problems, despite the skipping out on every debt he incurs upon his quest, she becomes convinced of her worth…simply because he says she is worthwhile.  In the closing scenes, at his death, Aldonza has come back to tell Don Quixote that she will believe no matter how preposterous in his vision of things “as they should be”, and is willing to follow him in his “Impossible Dream”.  Alas, in that moment as he is re-energized and straps on his armor for his lady…he falls dead.  When Sancho calls her by her name to comfort her she says not to call her Aldonza, “My name is Dulcinea.”  And isn’t this the way it is for us as Christians.  Just as Sancho the illiterate peasant becomes a the clever, proverb-quoting book-wise, squire in the royal household, and Don Quixano the shopkeeper becomes Don Quixote the knight of the realm, and even a whore becomes a royal lady, so too we have all been changed from the poor wretched worthless things we thought were into the beautiful things God sees in reality.  Just like many of the people living around Cervantes could not see true reality, and true faith, obscured as it was by the Inquisition, so too we are blinded by religiosity and dogma.  But if you peek under the curtain, if you show a little backbone and are unafraid to be called a rebel or a heretic and go beyond the vain traditions of men towards a real relationship with a living God…you just might find a world more real than reality.  You just might find Jesus waiting to bring you into a full and complete understanding of the miracles and wonders all around you every day…dragons that need slaying or princesses that need saving.  On the title page of the 1605 first edition of Cervantes masterwork, it reads “El ingenioso hidalgo don Quixote de la Mancha”.  Translated literally it means: the ingenuity of the son of royalty, the blood stained (man) of the stripes…and it is when he lays down and dies that Aldonza is at last convinced of her true identity Dulcinea.

Revelation 2: 17 Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To the one who is victorious, I will give some of the hidden manna. I will also give that person a white stone with a new name written on it, known only to the one who receives it.

It was on this day in 1965 that “Man of La Mancha” opened at the Washington Square Theater in Greenwich Village in NY City.  It’s still tilting towards wonder today.


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