The Austurian, who, tentatively and quietly, was holding her hands out in front of her and looking for her beloved, collided with Don Quixote’s arms; he seized her by the wrist and, pulling her to him, while she did not dare say a word, forced her to sit on the bed. Then he touched her chemise, and though it was made of burlap, to him it seemed the finest and sheerest silk. On her wrists she wore glass beads, but he imagined them to be precious pearls of the Orient. Her tresses, which were rather like a horse’s mane, he deemed strands of shining Arabian gold whose brilliance made the sun seem dim. And her breath, which undoubtedly smelled of yesterday’s stale salad, seemed to him a soft, aromatic scent wafting from her mouth; in short, he depicted her in his imagination as having the form and appearance of another princess he had read about in his books who, overcome by love and endowed with all the charms stated here, came to see the badly wounded knight. And the blind illusions of the poor gentleman were so great that neither her touch, nor her breath, nor any other of the good maiden’s attributes could discourage him, though they were enough to make any man who was not a muledriver vomit; on the contrary, it seemed to him that he clasped in his arms the goddess of beauty.
—First Part, Chapter XVI
It is both Don Quixote’s blessing and misfortune that he imagines himself in the heightened splendor of a romance novel far removed from a dull quotidian existence. Yes, he takes his beatings. But through his eyes, everything is a gift from some enchanted spirit and a reason to bristle with courage or melt with longing. He so inhabits the world of his favorite stories of knights errant that you forget he is wizened and toothless. (Or if you do, it makes his misplaced courage that much more heartrending and absurd.)
He faces the blank page of every day with spurs ready and throws himself at life with everything he’s got. Who wants to smell his darling’s foul breath, when he can imagine something much sweeter? Or arrive at an inn instead of a castle? Or come across a herd of goats instead of a muscle-popping battle scene?
Sometimes we choose a different story of our lives instead of the one we have settled for. And why not herald the beauty instead of harping on the facts?