“Finally, from so little sleeping and so much reading, his brain dried up and he went completely out of his mind.” —Miguel de Cervantes, Don QuixoteDon Quixote wasn’t the only one who goes mad from reading; the look in the eyes of seminar students reflects long nights in the company of the Great Books. In the end, however, we do not remember the number of pages we have read but the experience of gathering knowledge through the most basic form of learning—from each another. We gather around a table in Dante Hall running our eyes and fingers over highlighted words, trying to understand Cervantes’ rationale for writing Don Quixote.

I find solace in listening to my classmate’s perspectives. The words become familiar in the foreign land of classic literature. The chapters become lessons; the ideas come alive in each of our lives.

Is Don Quixote a hero or a fool? What worlds can we create in our minds if we free ourselves from the ordinary? Do we carelessly wander through life seeking distractions from the realities of mundane life?

There are no answers, because at the end of the discussion Don Quixote is whoever we believe him to be:

An immigrant student who makes countless calls to Congress hoping for the opportunity to earn a degree, despite opposition from a population tainted by fear of change.

A soldier who returns home scarred by the injustices of war, trying to belong in a culture he questions if he can belong to anymore.

Or parents who have lost their jobs but remain hopeful as they face an uncertain future, putting on a smile for their children.

The stories of our past create the narratives of the future and we find that the best place to find answers lies outside the roundtable as they unfold in our individual journeys.

- Liset Puentes ’15
Puentes is a communications major whose plans include graduate school and working as a multi-media journalist.

 

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