I was listening to magician David Blaine on The Tim Ferriss Show this week and he shared the back story on Cervantes, the author of Don Quixote, and it was mesmerizing.
David said, “The book that blows me away beyond anything, and it’s hard to explain it, Cervantes. Yeah, that guy, he wrote Don Quixote. His life was the most, for a writer, his life is what writers dream for. Even though it was a horrific and terrible life. Cervantes was the son of a surgeon in Spain. He died in 1616, the same year as Shakespeare. But back then, you were very poor. When he was 18 or something, he joined the military to fight for his country. He got shot and was maimed on the left side, so he was paralyzed on his left arm.
But he won the equivalent of the Purple Heart, so the King gave him a letter. On their trip back home in the boat, pirates basically took them captive. He was made into a slave for five years. While they were trying to get ransom, because he had this letter from the King, so they thought he was so important and so wealthy, which he wasn’t, they would just abuse and torture him.
Finally, his brother got the monks to raise enough money five years later. He went back home and the only job he could get was as a tax collector. The government giving him this job. But because that guy had such a big heart, he didn’t want to take taxes from a mother with five babies that couldn’t feed them. So he wouldn’t do his job the way the government wanted him to, so they put him in prison. He spent 12 years in prison. While in prison, he started writing Don Quixote. He finished it when he got out and it became the number one bestseller in Europe. It was one of the most respected books.
Shakespeare wrote an entire play about one character that was burned in the fire, about Cardenio. But even with all this success, the publisher screwed him over so he never saw a penny. So Cervantes died completely broke. He’s one of the greatest and most influential writers to this day. But when you read the book, it makes sense because the character is about a guy that wants to make the world a better place but he’s delusional because there’s no way he – it’s very difficult to do that.”
This tale stopped me in my tracks. I remember reading Don Quixote in my twenties. And this was the author’s life? So incredible. What hills are we trying to climb as we make an impact with our gift?
David Blaine also said, “We are all capable of infinitely more than we believe.” Cervantes was imprisoned, captured by pirates, poor, injured and yet, he persisted. We are capable and worthy and ready.
Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra wrote in Don Quixote, “Until death it is all life.”
And how are we living it?