The French philosopher François-Marie Arouet – better known as Voltaire – once asked the question: “What is madness?” Then immediately provided the answer: “Madness is to have erroneous perceptions and to reason correctly from them.” There is little wonder why his words have survived the test of time, the depth of his response was nothing short of profound. On the surface, this quote appears quite elementary, hence belies the brilliance of his words forcing the need to dig deep, because the surface, where we feel safe, there lies confusion.
Mental Illness is an umbrella term, which encompasses a vast array of medical conditions, induced by various factors, but leading to a short circuit in the brain’s hardwiring, on various levels. A relatively common mind disorder, schizophrenia, can be quite dangerous, both to the victim and to those in the immediate surroundings, often leads to a perception that the make believe conjured up by our minds, is a reality that means to do the schizophrenic great bodily harm. But not all false perceptions are of the mental kind. There are times, we refuse to change our perception, even after the intent had been communicated clearly. So on the surface, many would reason, Voltaire’s words referred to medically recognized mental illness, but that is not what he said. “Madness is to have erroneous perceptions and to reason correctly from them.” Bestowing insanity on us all, each time we refuse to communicate with an open mind, with the goal of reaching peace, preferring to stand firm on a false belief, turning our backs on and walking away from our sanity.
Our Featured Presentation: The Depths of Crazy
set design courtesy of Art Professor Clara Lieu
cover art Alone I break courtesy of FangedFem, Emotions catalogue
soundtrack Memories by Fiyaman and My Mind Playin Tricks On Me originally performed by the Geto Boys, remixed by Breezy courtesy of SoundCloud
written by Kendall F. Person, thepublicblogger – and featuring – philosopher Ahmad Al Charif
developed, edited and produced by Kendall F. Person, thepublicblogger
***A very special thank you to Jessica S. of Alexandria, Virginia for the kind donation during Support The Neighborhood Week. You are appreciated.
philosopher Ahmad Al Charif
What is sanity, and how do we come to label someone as sane, vs insane? A dictionary defines the word sanity as “sound of mind”, and/or “sound of judgment”. How very interesting, that the very definition of the word sane, could be so open to interpretation. How do we really decide if someone is in possession of soundness of mind and judgement? There does exist obvious cases. For instance, a person committing heinous acts of violence, against others or themselves, does not match the criteria, therefore must be insane, correct?As I write this article, media stations are saturated with news of wars in so many different countries, I find it difficult to keep up, so I gave up trying. These are major conflicts, that in essence, and no matter how hard politicians try to dress it up to be, are all about power, and money. What else do people fight about, really? These politicians, these individual human beings make statements, argue about making a stand for what they believe is right, and of course on the other end you will find an opposing force, equally as stubborn and with the same brutal amount of conviction.These people, in the name of patriotism, law, ethics, religion, morals, values, and so on and so forth, create conflicts. They develop weapons, and create soldiers. They send them to war, to kill and destroy, no… to vanquish the enemy.Who is the enemy, really?Other people, much like ourselves, with conviction, and a solid cause. Because every person’s cause, is righteous to them. And the idea of compromise is unthinkable, because of pride and glory. This would be fine, except that real people are being sent off to their horrific deaths. Everyday. And all for what? Really, nobody truly knows…Politicians have become experts at stirring up emotions, and off to war we go. Killing an enemy that is exactly like us, only with a different perspective than ours. When does it end, Or how? Most importantly, can it? As humans, are we sound of mind and judgement, if we continue doing what we have been doing throughout history, but expecting a different result? Has this idea of conquering the enemy, with brutal force, harvested any true peace, that withstood the test of time? Or are we simply stacking up bodies, in an overpopulated planet?In the days of the Romans, people killed each other, while others watched in pleasure and cheered on. Back then it was normal, but now that same act would be deemed outrageous, bordering insanity. So are the things we do today really that sane? Or are our great great grandchildren, hundreds of years from now, going to look back at us and wonder what in God’s name were we doing?
Where do we draw the line? Sanity is much more difficult to define, than any dictionary could provide. It is about knowing full well who you are, and staying true to that. Its about learning to give full value to all there is to your existence. To your dreams, but above all, to your soul. And your soul does not want people senselessly dying.
I hereby relinquish my sanity for today. I will relinquish my sanity everyday, for as long as I live.
If sanity is to be blind, and self-centered. If it means I have to put my needs, before that of everyone else. If sanity requires that I become a mindless drone, blind to the voice of reason, answering only to the endless needs of a corrupted society and not the mind, then I would much rather be labeled insane, and live happily ever after.
I believe that to be the only sane thing to do.
Just about any ordinary person can slip into madness, In fact, all it may take to trigger the process is a special kind of blow to one’s self-image to push someone over the edge of sanity. – Why and how normal people go mad, by Jennifer Daw, American Psychological Association
Under the umbrella term: mental illness, there are two relatively rare disorders – Cotard delusion and conversion disorder – existing on polar opposite planes of the layman’s understanding of the complex world of psychology. Skeptics question their validity, but each has been diagnosed, studied and are accepted within academia as legitimate mental disorders. Cotard delusion, named after French neurologist Jules Cotard, is the belief by a sufferer of the – also known as “Walking Corpse” syndrome – that they, him or herself, is actually dead. Conversion disorder – infamously known as mass hysteria – produces real symptoms, psychologically triggered, throughout a large group of people, who may or may not have any connection.
1788, perhaps in Geneva, Switzerland, one of the earliest cases reported, an elderly woman became afflicted with Cotard delusions, initially rendering her mute. When speech returned, she informed the family she was dead, to dress her in a shroud, fit her for a coffin and deliver her to the morgue to be with her kind, the actual dead. Attempts to ignore her were futile, as the elderly woman became insistent and demanding to be treated like she was dead. Her family would finally give in, dress her in a shroud and lay her down in pretense of a wake. She fell asleep from all the fuss, but when she awoke in her bed, the symptoms faded away, but months later, she died again.
1937, in Banda, Indonesia mass hysteria would hit an all time high. The people of the small village became convinced that the Indonesian government had contracted with head hunters to retrieve heads from the people of Banda, to serve as cornerstones for new buildings and bridges. Panic erupted, and stark terror put a stranglehold on the people, who shutdown all forms of commerce, racing home and barricading themselves inside their houses. Conversion disorder had become so entrenched, that stories began to surface of sightings of the head hunters and tales of galant escapes.
Imagine if you will for a moment, if watching lives unravel were a spectator sport, and the elderly woman suffering from Cotard delusions was in Banda, Indonesia during the height of the ‘head-hunting’ mass hysteria event, and the terrified people gained courage to look out a boarded window, and they saw the elderly woman in the dark, wondering aimlessly looking for her burial plot, their belief in a government conspiracy would be confirmed, because they actually saw someone, but the elderly lady believed she was dead, therefore no one could actually see her, because she believed she was not there. So if the entire town is trapped in a full mental breakdown, evenly split by these two recognized mental disorders, who would be the authority, and how would anyone know, who was of right mind and who was insane.
While the aforementioned occurrences materialized both miles and centuries a part, in 2014, in a small town, located along the shores of Lake Superior, a quiet, peaceful place and its law-abiding citizens, would be confronted by both rare, psychological disorders, sending the town spinning so fast, they would arrive at the depths of crazy, before anyone could seize control. On a beautiful Sunday morning, the sky would emerge from darkness in a serene shade of blue. The long winter chill had finally released its grasped, and the sun’s warm rays of spring time, gave the air the perfect temperature at last. But the people chose to ignore a day of perfect weather, and irony’s incredibly transparent display, would fly way over their heads, when families leapt into their cars and darted toward their house of worship.
Speeding north up Maple Street, was John Peters and his clan. By all accounts, John was a good man. Treated his wife and kids with love, respect and led by example, living by the Good Book. But when he got wind that the pastor of their church had leased a section of the grounds to a group of Muslims, he had to put his foot down. Driving erratically down Fern Drive, was Maxine Long with her two teenaged kids also in the car. She had heard that the minister had lost his mind, and was going to perform a same-sex union, in the same building where she gave tithes. So absorbed, in her righteousness was she, she failed to notice the bruises on her youngest son’s face, from the oppressive bullying he was facing each and every day. And no matter how she tried, his older sister could not get him to smile. Heading west on Mustard Road, was Robert Long, who supposedly was at work, but was chasing after the car in front him, to stop his mistress from telling his wife. And by total coincidence, two completely separate parties formed a caravan, all headed to the same place. Driving east on Snowbell Lane, in the first five cars of the procession, were worshippers of the Muslim faith, who were thrilled to finally have a communal place to pray. And the six cars following their path, were two wedding parties, holding their ceremonies together. Sheila & June, and Frank & Brady, were elated to be surrounded by family and friends, who would get to see them finally tie the knot.
The pastor stood in the mirror, his loving wife helping to straighten his tie, as he welcomed, with trepidation, a new day, for he had been on the losing side of both battles. But one fine morning, he embraced his calling as a leader of a diverse land, and made his peace with his personal feelings, now intending to lead his flock into the promised land.
….to be continued