Ze Frank, Kony 2012 and Don Quixote

When I was a little girl, my bed was tall enough for me to sit under. My sister and I had gotten on our own rooms for the first time in our lives. Our dad had cut in half the bunk bed he had made for us to share. Kerry got the bottom half, and I got the top half. It was my space, under my bed. I had pillows, a lamp and a record player. I read, dreamed and listened to music.

It was under my bed that I discovered Man of la Mancha. I was so swept away by Don Quixote, Sancho and Dulcinea that I had the words of the story album memorized. To this day, I can still recite most of it from memory. It has been strong in my mind this morning.

In the past few months, I have found myself drawn to people in positions of anguish who are failing to fall prostrate to their despair…choosing instead to not only create hope in the midst of pain, but to share it publicly. I am inspired by the vulnerability in it. I am inspired by the strength in it. I am drawn to the humanity and imperfection of them. Through their bravery, I see the path to my own courage light up before me…and I push forward.

In every instance, however, I find encounters with another character in Man of la Mancha, the Great Enchanter. For those unfamiliar with the story, the Great Enchanter defeats Don Quixote in battle by presenting him with his own reflection in a circle of mirrors. Don Quixote’s faith in his mission is overcome by the “reality” of his circumstances and limitations. He falls, never to return to the field.

Cynicism is a tempting version of reality. The reality of our fallible humanity is a truth that is hard to argue with. We are imperfect. We make mistakes. We break down. We do stupid things. And, as the windows into each other’s worlds increase as our online lives become increasingly visible, becoming the ‘voice of reason” amidst a groundswell of enthusiasm over anything is an addictive position to take. It arms up against the possibility of dashed hopes. It puts us into a position of “see? I told you so.” In the instance that someone’s imperfection shows. We did not fall for it.

The Joseph Kony 2012 campaign drew criticism from the moment it was launched, and then the criticism grew sharper and more pointed after the man who made the video had a very public breakdown as a result of the public scrutiny.

Ze Frank became an online sensation six years ago with his quirky breakthrough video blog. You can see the fear in his latest video as he screws up the courage to launch his next endeavor. He seems to be braced for impact. And, unfortunately, he is likely to get it as people will come out of the woodwork to offer up their commentary, good and bad.

The world is rotten and god doesn’t even know we’re living on it.
Man of la Mancha

I have loved this quote for most of my life and repeated it often. Cynicism has been my “go-to” forever. I wanted to be at the front of the “I-saw-right-through-it” queue. But I find that this kind of thinking has left me wanting. I want to be inspired. I want to hope. I want to believe. I want to find people’s bravery inspiring, especially if they are imperfectly human, like me. It gives me hope that all of us crazy, hot-headed, weepy, impractical, baggage-carrying misfits can do something beautiful. That maybe all our efforts will meld together, in ways we cannot even anticipate, to bring our broken culture into something beyond our ability to imagine alone.

So, to everyone out there who is thinking of putting yourself on the line and bringing your imperfection out for the rest of us to see – remember that what you see in the enchanter’s mirrors is only a very shallow aspect of reality, and that there are always going to be those who can’t see past that. Please don’t let that stop you.

To those of you who feel a little fire kindle whenever you see, hear or read something brave and human…comment, share, follow. Be bold in your hope. Set yourself up to be ridiculed for being naïve or misled. Don’t be afraid to be inspired.

And, to all of you, from a little girl, under her bed with a record player…


2 thoughts on “Ze Frank, Kony 2012 and Don Quixote

  1. I dare not press play on that video, as it’ll just get the tears flowing. (Today I was asked to sing Somewhere Over the Rainbow at the funeral of a friend’s mother).

    Here’s to still being able to believe. No matter how hopeless, no matter how far.

  2. Hi Kimberley,
    Great article! Senor Quijana has long been my hero as well but I also suffer from an overactive critical left-brain. The Great Enchanter has laid me low several times with “reality”. However, over the years I’ve learned there is a solid, left-brain, factual hammer we can take to his mirrors. He is the enchanter, the hypnotist after all and his “reality” is more of a construct and illusion than my Impossible Dream. If you study the work of Barbara Fredrickson and her “Broaden and Build” theory as well as study the developmental role of Play in children, you will find that there is a real objective purpose to generating potential and immense amounts of possibilities/conceptions/scenarios for the same data. It makes your mind nimble enough to see chains of relationships and potential.
    This is the reason that positive people are more successful and healthy despite the “Illusion of Control”. Our interaction with this world depends upon having an accurate inner gestalt and that gestalt can only be honed by a continual “What if?” question followed by a comparison to the contextual/total reality being observed. Play and fantasizing exercise our ability to generate possible interpretations to stimuli. This is why brainstorming is so effective and the first rule of it is “You don’t dismiss or dis anyone’s idea, you keep it going”. The more possibilities you generate, the more you broaden your inner landscape of potential relationships allowing you to finally hit on the right one (the Aha! moment). The more cynical you are, the more your ability to think critically narrows. It is a robustly proven, scientific fact. A mind that is steeped in dreaming, play, imagination, saliency, possibilities, is far more able to perceive accurately the details of a physical situation than someone rigidly adhering to an established construct of ideas and set of rules.
    Keep dreaming and when the “Great Enchanter” shows up, try not to snicker but pat him on the head and tell him how cute he is with his small ideas and his paper-doll version of reality. Tell him he has to go back to his sandbox and play because we have revolutions to work (Ralph Waldo Emerson: Heroism). Remember, there is no such thing as a mistake, there is only experience to either use for correction or validation towards your ultimate goal. A baby makes a thousand “mistakes” when learning to walk but what child takes one of those mistakes and uses it as a benchmark for hir self-worth and identity? None, which is why almost everyone in the world walks….
    Thanks for writing!

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