In praise of madness and sanity

Subject: In praise of madness and sanity
From: TheCallan (
Date: Fri 22 May 1998 - 15:40:36 BST

"Sometimes I wonder about what madness really is;
perhaps just lack of a shared context on the part of an individual?
Or someone who rejects the assumptions which that context is buttressed by?"
Ben Singer

I have been haunted by these words by Ben. They remind me of how close the
line between madness and genius really is.

"Some people see things as they are and ask "Why?"
I see things as they could be and ask "Why Not?"
GB Shaw

It seems a key part of transgendering to reject the shared context of the
world, and create a new context for themselves, a new idea, a new way of being
in the world.

Yet, if we lack the shared context, we lack the connection to the world others
live in

It might seem that madness is wildness, individuality, but in the worst form,
madness is a disconnection from the shared context that leads to an inablity
to connect, to function in the world. It's when we can't find a way to
resolve our own flights of fancy and the demands of the world that mandness
entombs us, cut off from the world.

In many cultures, this madness, being between the world where most of us live,
the shared context, and some other world, often seen as the underworld, was a
gift, a mark of the shaman.

I think that transcendance demands madness, demands the ability and
willingness to see theings as they are not, to leave the shared context, for
whatever reason. Yet, living in this culture demands sanity, the
understanding of the shared context. We have to both be sane enough to know
and understand the rules, grasp what others say to us, and mad enough to break
the rules, grasp what the world of our heart says to us.

I suppose that means that madness and sanity is not an either/or proposition,
but rather another tale of aspects, of requiring that we be both mad and sane
in a bubbling mix.

Madness is wonderdul when it doesn't isolate us from the world. Sanity is
wonderful when it doesn't isolate us from ourselves.

These beliefs often make me seem contradictory to people, speaking both for
sanity and madness. My responses tend to speak for balance, and some times,
some people demand more madness, more transgression, more freedom, more
wildness and other people and times demand more sanity, more shared context,
more social concern, more tameness.

I don't know how others feel about their madness. I do know that when I was
in line at the grocery store behind a young man who was mumbling and lost, and
came home to say to my partner that I knew that there, but for the grace of
god go I, she was distateful, upset that I could even see that madness in me.
Yet, my struggle with who I was growing up was always a struggle between
madness and sanity, my knowledge that my own inner world was different than
the one I was living in, and that I had to learn to bridge those worlds, often
at the cost of my own heart. After all, who could trust a heart that wanted to
face certain stigma and abuse just to wear dresses? To embrace my madness, my
space outside of the shared context while I also embrace my sanity, my ability
to connect in the world has been very hard indeed.

For many who reject the shared context today, who are not really embracing
their own madness but rather just rejecting what they see as confining sanity,
I wonder how they work to find balance. I know that rejecting the imposed
standards of our parents is an important part of indviduation, but I also know
that participating in the shared culture, playing our part in building and
supporting community is the mark of an adult.

How do you celebrate both your sanity and your madness? Where are the
challenges that make you make hard decisions and lose your way? Like maybe,
staying employed? Somehow, the bill collector is always a good agrument for
sanity, for keeping your place in the world. Maybe that's why wo may artists
have spend so much time agruing for madness, for leaving the shared context to
crate new.

I like madness. I like sanity. I just like them together.



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