Applicable Lessons From An Insane Character
Khutulun only wanted one thing from her future husband.
It wasn't a massive diamond ring. Nor was it a fantastic wedding/honeymoon. She wanted nothing a traditional bride desired.
So what did she want?
Well, Khutulun wanted a husband that could beat her in a wrestling match.
So when potential suitors came to propose to her, she would offer to marry them if they outwrestle her. A lot of these Romeos took this as an easy task and agreed.
But there was a catch.
Khutulun wanted her opponents/potential lovers to wage horses for the match. If they win, they marry her. But if she wins, she gets their horses.
Every marriage proposal went like this.
And in this unique marriage-finding process, Khutulun found a lot of success.
Not for love but for gaining horses.
In fact, she won so many horses from these matches that it was rumoured she had tens of thousands of horses. As for Khutulun finally settling down.
It never happened.
Khutulun was committed that she find a husband who could beat her. And for whatever reason, that was never the case.
Now, this might all seem odd.
But I find Khutulun admirable. Because she made the most out of something that is usually considered boring.
When you think about it, we can all make adventures out of the boring tasks of life. Yet, we stay baked in the mundane, wishing for some external angel to grant us a dash of fun.
Someone who never needs the Angel of Fun in their life is Don Quixote. Now, now, I know Don Quixote has never existed. But he is still someone to admire. Because he is a character that shows you how to make something of your life.
And if you need to be made aware of who Don Quixote is, let me give you a cliff notes version.
Don Quixote is a middle-aged Spanish fellow.
He is not rich but has a comfortable life. Anyways, he goes on to read countless books on knights, their stories, etc. And decides to become a knight. He hires a squire (who is not intelligent), and they go across looking for adventures.
I will not give you any more details, as I highly recommend this book. However, I will provide you with three lessons from Don Quixote that can help you create a more exciting life.
First Lesson: It doesn't take much to create adventures
When you read about Don Quixote and his squire, you realize these men are limited in their means. Quixote has an old horse, and his squire, Sancho Panza, has a donkey. They don't have money.
Yet, this does not deter them at all.
They accept what they have and go out into the world feeling enough. Everyone around them thinks they are ill-prepared and insane. Yet these two can find adventures wherever they travel. Mind you, they get beat up, betrayed, and whole other shenanigans.
But that's part of living an adventurous life, and they don't shy away. I am telling you all this because you are enough to live a fun life. You don't need to be the most handsome, prosperous, fantastic, or some random shallow standard.
The way you are right now can find adventures. You need to be willing to want that. Countless people are more disadvantaged than you but stringing together a much more exciting life.
Life is an adventure.
But only if we are willing to see it that way. And that's why I respect Don Quixote. Because he is a less able person who can create a much more exciting life than the sane characters in the novel. What's even more impressive is how Don Quixote accepts any obstacles.
Second Lesson: Accepting all challenges
I'll be honest; all the challenges to Don Quixote are not all natural. But that doesn't matter because he willingly accepts challenges for one purpose.
A purpose that is more honourable than most can imagine.
And that is a way to show his character. Mr. Quixote realizes that he can only become the best knight in all history by overcoming all the difficulties that come his way. No matter how scary or complex they are, he accepts them.
To shy away from them would be a disgrace to him. Mr. Quixote refuses to be tinged with any form of cowardice.
Weirdly, this is how we should approach life.
No matter how complex or scary something is, our shame of cowardice should compel us to break out of our comfort womb.
The disgrace of cowardice should be kept in mind. It might seem like overkill. But I will tell you what's worse. Having too many 'what ifs in life.'
What if that girl liked me back?
What if I stood up for myself?
What if I followed my heart?
A life with too many what-ifs is painful.
More painful than whatever comes from accepting challenges. Life is meant for us to embrace challenges. There is no safe zone.
And funny enough, this is how we bring out our best selves. All those dormant parts of you will be awakened by the challenges you embrace. Then at the end of the journey, you will be surprised by the type of person you are.
Despite Don Quixote being a wackjob, nobody can deny that he has a bigger heart and more courage than most. And he can thank all those quirky challenges on his journey to knighthood. Another thing Don Quixote can thank is that he isn't unique.
Third Lesson: You don't have to be special
One of the refreshing things about Don Quixote is how painfully average he is. Maybe even below average. Yet, he creates a remarkable life with the sane individuals he meets. You want to know what the secret sauce is for it.
He is more willing than most.
Don Quixote wants to be a knight and is willing to take action to prove it to himself and the world. I bring up the willing part because a lot of us lack that. It's standard that people want all the great things in life but don't have the will to achieve them.
The French moralist François de La Rochefoucauld has an insightful and partly painful aphorism that touches upon this:
'We are more able than willing; often we imagine that things are impossible because we want to excuse ourselves in our own eyes.'
When I read that, it hurt.
Because it reminded me of how I imagined things to be much more complicated than it was. Thus leaving me to stay in my comfort womb. And when I look at Don Quixote, he doesn't see the world as filled with impossibilities.
But instead of a place to develop his knighthood.
Despite his mental illness, he can create more adventures with so little. This brings shame to my loser phase, where I had the money, resources, and capabilities to create an adventurous life. But because I lacked the will and saw the world as too dangerous, I suffered in my pool of self-pity.
Another novel that describes this realization is The Count of Monte Cristo. Edmond Dantès meets an old priest (Abba Faria) trying to escape prison. Yet, during his years of imprisonment, the idea of breaking out of prison never popped up for Dantès. Take a look at his thoughts below:
"But now that he had seen an old man clasping on to life with such energy and giving him the example of such desperate resolve, he started to reflect and to measure his courage. Another man had attempted to do something that he had not even thought of doing; another, less young, less strong and less agile than himself, had succeeded, by sheer skill and patience, in acquiring all the implements he needed for this incredible task, which had failed only because of a failure of measurement; someone else had done all this, so nothing was impossible for Dantès."
Sometimes it takes seeing someone less capable than us to show us how much we can do if we have the will. Abba Faria showed Edmond Dantès. And Don Quixote can do the same for you.
However, despite this corny philosophical conversation on literature, some will still pine with me about all this being fiction.
Isn't this a fictional character and not realistic for regular people?
I understand that Don Quixote is not factual. But you have to understand one thing when reading classical literature: The human spirit that made the work was genuine.
You can't write about pain in fiction without experiencing it.
You can't write about love in fiction without experiencing it
You can't write about adventure in fiction without experiencing it.
And the creator of Don Quixote, Miguel Cervantes, had one heck of a life.
And most of it was riddled with difficulties.
Miguel fought in the Battle of Lepanto in 1571 and permanently lost the use of his left arm. He was captured by Barbary pirates and sold in the slave market. He was a slave for five years before being ransomed back to Spain.
And it doesn't stop there.
He took a job as a tax collector and somehow ended up in jail many times for some weird aspect of the job.
Plus, he was a failed playwriter for most of his career.
Only later, when he wrote the novel Don Quixote, did he find success with his writings. But it went against the norm of the day's writing.
I mention all this because Miguel lived an exciting and intense life. One where he probably looked back, wondering how this all came about.
Don't look at Don Quixote as imaginary, but take a whiff of the essence of Miguel de Cervantes' soul.
Take an intoxicating whiff and let him inspire you to live life to its fullest. A prime example of someone living to their fullest is one of my best friends.
Let me preface this, I love Kevin. He is younger than me. But he is taller and stronger than me. And is the only person in my network that I know I can never beat in a fight.
One thing that impresses me the most about Kevin is how he created so many random adventures in his life.
Take a look at some of the things he has done:
President of my fraternity
Occasional stand-up comedy
Brazilian jiu-jitsu (when not injured)
Kickboxing (when not injured)
An impressive mix of friends
But on top of all that, Kevin did this in his life whether he felt he was his best or not. Like all of us, he had challenges, but he still did many fun and exciting things. People get blown away when Kevin mentions some of the activities he has done.
And Kevin is not unique.
He wanted to explore life in new ways and create stories along the path. Some are rated G, and others are rated R.
But amazing stories nonetheless.
Another thing that amazes me is how people can make mistakes when looking for a sense of adventure.
Getting a sense of adventure with video games.
Sometimes we think we can't create adventures. So we find this outlet in video games.
And a lot of people take this hobby too far. Where they put their heart and soul into transversing some fantasy land. Now, there is nothing wrong with video games when there is moderation. But when it becomes the primary source to gain a thrill in life, that's where the problem is.
Nassim Taleb puts it more succinctly in this aphorism from his book The Bed of Procrustes:
"Video games give us the illusions of heroism."
It gives us the illusion of living a thrilling life. And it can be intoxicating, so we have to be careful with gaming. It's our responsibility to ensure we create adventures in the real world, not in a virtual one. And those who live adventurous lives will tell you that video games never come close.
So go make an exciting life for yourself.
As for me, I'll wrap up this article.
Lesson #1: It doesn't take much to create adventures in your life.
Lesson #2: Demonstrate your character by accepting all challenges in life.
Lesson# 3: You don't have to be unique but need the will to live an exciting life.
Don Quixote is fictional, but the human spirit that created him was real. Take a look at Miguel de Cervantes' life, and you will feel his spirit in Don Quixote.
Kevin, one of my best friends, created adventures and stories in his life. And he isn't unique.
A simple mistake is to get your sense of adventure in video games.
Maybe even a boring one, but I hope you get the message. You have everything in you to create an adventurous life. And it takes reminders from unlikely sources, like Don Quixote, to remind you.
Otherwise, it's easy to fall into the trap of the daily grind.
So be mindful of yourself and what you are capable of. Who knows, maybe you'll find some rewards along the way. Like Khutulun did with her marriage proposals.
Until next time,
The Charismatic Nerd