A few days ago I was in a bit of a funk. My vacation was over and the car was packed for our drive home. When I tried to identify how I was feeling, the word that arose was “reality.” I didn’t want to return to a reality from which I’d had a respite.
My unpleasant reality, which can be petty, may not be the same as yours, but it has a lot to do with facing facts, procrastinated tasks, too little rest, boundary issues, and a 24-hour news cycle. I began the ride down I-95 with a solid commitment to a few hours of the grumbles.
Then we chose the score from Man of La Mancha for some driving music. Loosely based on Cervantes’ Don Quixote, it is a play within a play as our hero awaits sentencing in a prison. It’s about choosing a crazy but life-giving dream over a hopeless reality. It’s about choosing to live passionately through the good one can do, living in love and hope. “The impossible dream.”
We all have a deep yearning for such goodness, for the determination to make joy the conqueror over whatever reality we face. In 2002, as the Iraq-Afghanistan war hit new heights of awfulness, a revival of La Mancha had its pre-Broadway opening in Washington. We were there, and the audience was filled with important Washingtonians. Our Quixote stepped to the front of the stage and sang.
To dream the impossible dream
To fight the unbeatable foe
To bear with unbearable sorrow
To run where the brave dare not go…
To try when your arms are too weary…
To be willing to march into hell for a heavenly cause…
And the world will be better for this
That one man, scorned and covered with scars,
Still strove with his last ounce of courage
To reach the unreachable star.
And the National Theater wept.
Long before Cervantes took a pen in hand, long before Broadway producers crafted this show, a man called Jesus offered us a new reality. Jesus offered us an unconditional love from which we cannot be separated, a peace that passes all understanding, and a hope that is unquenchable. And yes, it sometimes includes unbearable sorrow, weary arms and a seeming march into hell. Reverend Deborah spoke of courage in her Sunday sermon; we know it can take a mighty amount of courage to take the hand of Christ and live in His way. We must have the courage to release our grip on the reality we’ve gotten comfortable with.
Some say that our faith is a fantasy, a dream like the Don’s. Few can offer hard evidence to refute that, but humankind over the ages courageously chooses to believe, perhaps, as C.S. Lewis says in the beloved Narnia books, “I'm on Aslan's side even if there isn't any Aslan to lead it. I'm going to live as like a Narnian as I can, even if there isn't any Narnia.”
What is reality and what is the beautiful dream? And what is of God?