“Facts are the enemy of truth.” It's one of my favorite quotes of all time – a contradiction in terms, maybe even an oxymoronic statement, but a statement I find profoundly factual and truthful nonetheless.
Ironically, even the facts of this quote's origins are disputed. Was it first written by Miguel de Cervantes in his prolific 1605 novel “Don Quixote;” or by Dale Wasserman in his 1965 stage musical, or the 1972 film it inspired of the same name, “Man of La Mancha?”
I found the mystery of that debate too interesting to ruin with tedious research, so I admit that I do not know the origin of the quote itself, just that it was delivered by one of my favorite fictional characters, Don Quixote de la Mancha.
A true dreamer of dreams, Don Quixote refuses to accept his reality and lives his own truth. Something we should all aspire to do more of, as long as it doesn't compromise our health and sanity like it did to poor old Don Quixote.
But how can a fact be an enemy of the truth when the two words mean the same thing? Let's examine the classic definitions of the two words as they apply to this quote.
Fact: a thing that is known or proven to be true.
Truth: a fact or belief that is accepted as true.
In the case of the novel's protagonist, Alonso Quixano, who rejects the facts of reality and accepts the truth of a reality he creates for himself, the quote proves to be true.
Quixano refuses to abide by what is proven to be true and creates his fantastic alter ego around what he believes to be true.
Fueled by his unwavering belief that he is, in fact, a knight with an exceptional quest, the Spanish nobleman dubs himself Don Quixote, puts on an aged suit of armor, mounts his elderly horse, and ventures out into the world on a quest of his own imagining.
Throughout the story, those he encounters try in vain to force Don Quixote to accept reality and give up his fantasy of being a famous knight, but he persists. He remains so steadfast in his truth that some even give up trying to bring him back to the real world and instead play into his delusions to preserve their own sanity.
Don Quixote is not only a brilliant literary masterpiece, but a thought-provoking look into what we can convince ourselves is reality – once we accept our own personal truth.