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HERE ARE SOME jots and tittles to sort through today; some tidbits and prose bites.

- THE IMPROBABLE DREAM: My wife and I attended the opening of "Man of La Mancha" at Pioneer Memorial Theatre on Wednesday. My degree is in Spanish literature, so I spent a good chunk of two years reading "Don Quixote." And hearing Robert Peterson sing show-stopping sentiments was enough to "pop free" several nuggets of knowledge my brain had hidden away.

I remembered, for instance, that Miguel de Cervantes, the author, never got beyond the fourth grade. That his father was a barber who doubled as a surgeon (barbers had all the basins and razors). I remembered he only had the use of one arm (his peers actually nicknamed him "the One Armed Man").

I remembered how every literary movement since 1615 has found something to love about Quixote.

And I remembered something a professor told me at the University of New Mexico:

"Four figures in literature define the personality of people in Europe and America," he said. "Don Juan represents our defiant individuality, Faust is our greed, Hamlet represents our brooding introspection and Don Quixote - well, Quixote is the best in us: He is our unquenchable thirst for the ideal."

Bravo, Senor Quixote.

And bravo Senor Peterson.

- :THOUGHTS AT A TIME LIKE THIS: While nosing around the newsroom the other day I came across the Deseret News "clip file" on Pope John Paul I (Not John Paul II). I looked through it.

JPI, as you recall, was pope for just a few months. His gentle spirit led him to sell his papal ring and give the money to the poor. He rode around Rome on a bicycle to see how the parishers were doing. He called himself "God's wren . . . a poor man accustomed to small things and silence."

He was also given to wonderful little asides, such as "Theologians today spend too much time talking about God and not enough time talking to Him."

I thought of literature - how the brightest lights often burn right at the end of an literary era - just before a new, dynamic era begins. Shakespeare was the glow at the end of the Elizabethan era. Cervantes and Gertrude Stein came at the close of their epochs.

And I thought how the same happened with religion. Just before a new, robust era begins, we're shown the best the former era had to offer.

John Paul I was the sweet, bright sunset just before the dawn of John Paul II and his fresh new vigor.

I thought of Joseph F. Smith followed by Heber J. Grant.

Then I thought of our own era, with President Howard W. Hunter followed by President Gordon B. Hinckley.

- DON'T EVEN DO AS I SAY: Back in 1857, the Old Farmer's Almanac released a list of "Tried and True Advice for Shortening Your Life." Here are five things to consider:

1. Marry in haste.

2. Contrive to keep a continual worry about nothing.

3. Give way to anger.

4. Wear thin shoes on damp nights.

5. Eat without properly chewing.

Judging by all that, I should have died in infancy.