Today in my “Faith, Doubt, and Reason” class we began our discussion of Don Quixote, and spent some time thinking about the nature of madness and how we determine or categorize people and their perception of reality. The story can serve quite easily as a parable of religious belief: a person who, as a result of stories that shape his worldview, sees ordinary people and objects as forces of darkness to be combated. But in fact, stories shape all of our lives and worldviews, and not only those of religious believers. And the question of how we ensure to the greatest extent possible that our beliefs are compatible with “reality” is the very heart of the issue.
When I returned from class, I saw that someone had posted this quote from the late Steve Jobs on Facebook:
We talked about this too in class – the fact that some who went against social norms in their own time and were called crazy are looked back upon as heroes by those of us whose perception of reality and social norms have been shaped by theirs. Don Quixote is a warning to allow our perceptions to be challenged, but it also raises the question of when it is appropriate to allow stories to challenge us to take action where others remain silent, to dare to see things differently and act differently. It is a real challenge to take seriously that when everyone else perceives matters differently than we do, we are probably wrong; and yet to still believe that sometimes daring to be heroically different is appropriate or necessary even so.
The quote is from a 1997 Apple commercial connected to its “Think Different” slogan. The commercial is often referred to by its opening line, “Here’s to the crazy ones”: