DAILY BRIEFINGOf Windmills and Pookas
Sept. 29 - It's Miguel de Cervantes's birthday. Born in 1547, Cervantes is best known as the author of Don Quixote, a cunning satire on mental illness. The work is an epic treatment of the perennial question, "wouldn't the world be better off if we were all batshit crazy?"
The answer from the novel is a qualified yes: the story supports the premise, but its length and lucidity suggest that the author himself was not batshit crazy, which contradicts the premise.
Ever since the publication of Don Quixote, the idea of improving through world through mental illness has taken root in the popular culture of the west. From the good soldier Svjek and Prince Myshkin to Chauncy Gardener, Elwood P. Dowd, and Forrest Gump, western readers and filmgoers have a galaxy of benevolent lunatics to show them the way to a better, purer existence. Grand mal seizures, delirium tremens, and hallucinations are merely the price of admission to their wistful world of blissful ignorance.
The sane and hard-working do not come off nearly so well in film or literature. In fact, sane and hard-working people seldom even appear in film or literature. No one wants to read about them, or spend good money to watch them go about their plodding lives, because most of us are surrounded by sane and hard-working people already and know what they're like—they're just like us, only less so.
Early to bed and early to rise may make a man healthy, and wealthy, and wise, but it won't do a goddam thing for his Nielsens. In fact, if you're healthy, wealthy, wise, and well-rested, you're only going to piss the rest of us off.
Lighten up, slack off, drink up, and wig out. That's the real road to happiness—or at least our acceptance, without which you have no right to be happy.
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On this date in 1399, Richard II was deposed, which only served him right for having posed in the first place. He was succeeded by Henry IV part I.
On September 29, 1513, Spanish explorer Vasco Nunez de Balboa (no relation) discovered the Pacific Ocean. How something that covers roughly a third of the earth's surface could have been lost for so long is a question that stumps historians to this day.
Sharing their birthday with Cervantes are Lech Walesa (1943), Madeline Kahn (1942), Jerry Lee Lewis (1935), Gene Autry (1907), and Enrico Fermi (1901).
September 29 is Battle of Boqueron Day in Paraguay. (If you have to ask about Battle of Boqueron Day, you can't afford it.)
© 2003, The Moron's Almanac