It surprises me when I look at the date of the previous issue and discover how long it’s been since. It isn’t as though I could plead the press of official NAPA business. More of you are watching for your “birthday” on the bundles and sending in your dues without the necessity of a reminder, a saving of both time and postage at this end of the line. J. Ed has been printing notices of dues cards, eliminating hours of labor. The current supply should exceed my term, which is not to be taken as a hint I would accept another one. I won’t. Other officers appear in print regularly, producing pages of handset type containing well-written material. So why don’t I? Because I’m lazy, that’s why. Because I would rather think about doing things than do them, especially when the doing involves some of my lousy typing. Because I’d rather watch TV and read and cook and sew, that’s why. But in between I have dreamed this up for you.
In Defense of the Impossible Dream
Cervantes, I once read, wrote Don Quixote to kill knighthood with the deadly weapon of satire. Chivalry had degenerated into guitar-picking serenades with very bad lyrics, and it was time to bury it. Whether that hypothesis is correct, I do not know, but the idea of murder by the spoken or written word is sound. A stuffed shirt can be beaten to death or laughed to death. The latter is more effective. Violence is capable of producing a hero or a martyr. Ridicule leaves only a punctured and deflated rag.
If homicide was the purpose of Cervantes, the case has taken a different turn today. The Don Quixote he created is back with a new image. He has changed from a slightly mad, aging knight to the little man with the impossible dream. Mocked and bedeviled, beset by forces that care nothing about him and are too powerful for him, he goes on believing goodness and beauty and high adventure still exist in the world. Even in death, destroyed by doubts of the reality of the unreal, he sees his tarnished dream made bright again in the mind of another visionary. And that was a better benediction than any priest could pronounce.
But whether Don Quixote is new or old style, he remains a lovable character. It is easy to dislike the knight in shining armor if he gallops off on his white horse simply to demonstrate his superiority over dragons, especially when they are very small dragons. The Don put on his rusty mail and his basin hat, mounted his sway-backed nag and ambled forth to overcome monsters and giants and castles for the honor of his lady. In the world of his dream all these things came to pass. It does not matter that in reality he attacked wineskins and windmills. There are times when a windmill should be tilted with, not because it is mistaken for a giant, but to prove it is only a windmill and cannot block the triumphant march of a dream.
For dreams are the mainstay of life. Not just the practical dreams that lead to great achievements. The number of great achievements is minuscule among the multitude of dreams that never reach the drawing board, let alone get off it. But the impossible dream still makes living possible. The world does not need – or at least does not want – the Don Quixotes, the Walter Mitties, the Elwood P. Dowds, the dreams and fantasies. The naked soul of the little man does. It finds scant protection in the threadbare cloak of everyday events and persons. A dream adds the purple patch of beauty and warmth.
To return to Cervantes and his time, again I do not know how many then still dreamed of knighthood and great deeds and high ideals. I do know there was cruelty in the pen that slaughtered such dreams. There is cruelty always in the raucous laughter that strips away illusion and offers realism instead. Never mind that the dreams are impossible. Realism can be unbearable. The man who goes on seeing himself as he would like to be, somehow manages to live with himself as he is. That in itself is an achievement of no slight magnitude.
This is the substance of dreams:
Gossamer, endlessly drifting,
Borne like a mist on the winds,
Ceaselessly falling and lifting,
Will-o’-the wisp of my wishing,
Mine for the taking they seem,
Yet always my fingers are empty –
Such is the stuff of a dream.
Louise Lincoln and A. Walrus
Tucson, Arizona 85710
Via the print shop of Alf Babcock