In his novel, The Ingenious Gentleman Sir Quixote of La Mancha, also known as Don Quixote, Miguel de Cervantes paints a tragic and yet comedic picture of a would-be warrior who takes on, of all things, windmills. Believing them to be giants to be slain, Quixote raises his lance and charges. He fancies himself a knight, fighting to bring back chivalry to a fallen world. In his mind he is noble. He is a gentleman. He is a lone warrior in the fight for good.
He is also completely insane.
Every day, several times a day, I raise my iPhone toward my face, allow the facial scanner to identify me as its owner, and tap the small Facebook icon in the upper left corner. Immediately, I scour my feed for evidence of battles waged by my fellow modern day Quixotes. I revel in our jousts, tilting at political ideals, social and cultural issues we deem to be giants. I’ll “like, share or comment” on the best bouts and often launch a few of my own assaults. We are warriors engaging in virtuous attacks. Our weapons? Memes, Bible verses, gifs, movie screenshots taken out of context, and one-liners. We ride our gallant social media steeds in search of windmills to slay. We convince ourselves that we are noble, perhaps even righteous knights in shining armor, here to save the world from itself.
And yet, now I must wonder about our own sanity.
Are we suffering from OCQD (Obsessive Compulsive Quixote Disorder) turning every person or ideal we don’t agree with into giants to be slaughtered? Is there really virtue in this endless barrage of social sorties?
To be honest, it’s addictively empowering. What’s not to love about a meme that shouts the stupidity of a political leader who can’t seem to open her mouth without confirming everyone’s suspicions that she’s completely out of her league? How else can we show our moral superiority if not by emblazoning a Bible verse over the headshot of a political icon caught in a lie?
But if we are not careful, we can find ourselves like the famed Cervantes hero, whose health deteriorates dramatically. The side-effects of OCQD include over-inflated sense of self-righteousness, swelling of the ego, enlarged cranium. Severe cases may include blindness to the things that are actually going well, things that are good, wholesome and virtuous.
But there is hope.
If you, like me, suffer from OCQD, might I suggest a treatment plan? It’s a tough pill to swallow, but perhaps, for the next 24-48 hours or so, turn away from the dialogue designed to destroy, and instead share the good in life. Where’s that picture of your smiling baby granddaughter? How did your son impress you today? What do you love most about your spouse?
When we stop seeing the world as windmills, we start seeing the reality that, though we may disagree on many things, we are all of the same species. And survival of the species must supersede survival of our own self-esteem. Though some battles are worth waging, not all are. Perhaps at least a temporary cease-fire is in order.
Spoiler alert: Quixote dies alone, in his bed, finally coming to grips with his own insanity. Before he breathes his last, he disavows the ideals which he held onto so dearly for so long. That does not mean, as some have suggested, the death of chivalry or truth. It does, however, mean the death of being obsessed with always being right.