Too much sanity may be madness — and maddest of all: to see life as it is, and not as it should be!

Alex Aristidou
5 min readFeb 4, 2024

You can listen to the podcast episode of the Inner Wonder on this particular topic here: https://tr.ee/I_k2zWhsS4

I was watching a series recently where a son was talking to his dad saying that he is disappointed that his dream will not become a reality. The dad looked over to his son and asked him.

“Why are you being so negative about your dreams?” — Dad

“I am not negative dad, I am just being pragmatic, a realist” — Son

“I didn’t raise you to be a realist son, I raised you to be a dreamer to be an idealist” — Dad

I often discuss with my friends about realists and dreamers. One could say that to dream is to live in tomorrow — land and that we should strive more to see things as they are, in the present — land. Others would quote Jon Lennon “You might say I am a dreamer, but I am not the only one!”, arguing that without dreams, one can’t grow and change would not be possible. In adding more to this endless debate of realists vs dreamers, I thought to myself, where would be a better place to look for more information than to the leader of all dreamers and the most sold novel of all time (aside the bible), with more than 500million copies, Don Quixote.

Interestingly, I saw two spellings one as Don Quixote and one as Don Quijote. It seems that at the time the novel was written, 1615, the J was not actively used and so the author used X instead. I am sort of traditional here, so I will keep using X for the sake of the article!

Introduction is not needed, but if you need a refresher on this book with key learnings look no further that to this super informative ted-ed video by Ilan Stavans.

Don Quixote” is a novel by Miguel de Cervantes that follows the adventures of an ageing gentleman, Alonso Quixano, who becomes delusional and believes he is a knight named Don Quixote. He sets out on misadventures with his loyal follower, Sancho Panza, challenging windmills and pursuing imaginary enemies, blending satire with an intense exploration of reality and illusion.

I would say Don Quixote was a realist in some sense, only that his reality was far from the reality of others. He believed so much in his dreams and the novels he read that he became attached to the reality he created. When windmills appear to be giants, nothing can stop Don Quixote from attacking them, not even his loyal follower Sancho Panza, who in my eyes appears more to be a dreamer because he views reality with the eyes of the common but chooses to follow a dream, the dream of a kingdom, where mansions appear castles. In the pursuit of this dream, Sancho gets beaten up and suffers great pain. In reality, Don Quixote suffers too.

It is commonly accepted, that for society to advance we need both realists and dreamers. Both are important and have their own unique strengths and weaknesses. Together, they create a balance that allows society to develop. However, I would like to see a more personal side of this. Don Quixote by living in his reality, created suffering for him and his loved ones. One can’t doubt the sense of romanticism in his actions, but he himself at the end of his life chooses to avoid dreaming and to protect future generations by destroying many novels, novels that created his reality.

I would also argue thought, that life can appear very dull and even meaningless without a dream and without a purpose, a purpose which may appear unrealistic at first. In A Man’s Search for Meaning, Viktor Frankl discusses how people without meaning, without a dream faced the greatest suffering in WWII concentration camps. To add more to this, MLK, envisioned a dream of a better and more equal world for every citizen of his nation. His dream reduced the suffering of many.

The best quote on dreams I ever read comes from the poem IF, by Rudyard Kipling.

If you can dream, but not make dreams your master!

You can check Episode 5 of the Inner Wonder podcast for an episode dedicated to this poem!

I guess, that is where Don Quixote (with all the respect!) failed. He dreamt of being a knight and he aimed to protect the woman he loved but his dream overtook his reality and guided him to suffering. If you dream of hiking Mount Everest but you have never hiked before, it is important to keep the dream alive but face the reality of your situation and practise step by step, from smaller hills to the ultimate high. If you try from day one to climb Everest, then you are facing the potential of suffering.

But then again, if you don’t dream about it you are facing the potential of being stuck in your status quo — in your comfort zone. When we dream, we might feel judged or we might feel a bit crazy or mad but…

“When life itself seems lunatic, who knows where madness lies? Perhaps to be too practical is madness. To surrender dreams — this may be madness. Too much sanity may be madness — and maddest of all: to see life as it is, and not as it should be!”

Imagine thinkers if MLK, saw life as it was and not as it should have been!

Les Brown — has a beautiful quote which goes by… The wealthiest place in the world is the graveyard. Because there we find inventions we were never exposed to. Ideas and dreams that never became a reality. Hopes and aspirations that no one ever acted upon.

I know this sounds scary and it is personally one of my greatest fears. To live a life where I will never meet the person I dream to be. Where the potential will be left untouched. Where dreams are left in a dusty corner of our brains. Every day is an opportunity to interact more with that person. Every moment is an opportunity to act on our dreams and only then we can be wealthy in life and poor in the graveyard!

As I End this episode, let me ask you thinkers.

“what is there to live without a dream and what is there to a dream without living it!”

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