Why Being Mad Is Good
Updated: Apr 5
"We're all mad here. I'm mad. You're mad." (Said the Cheshire Cat - Alice in Wonderland)
So we are, perhaps; most people have their own set of polarities. A person without polarities would be very odd indeed. They would deprive us of the infinite interpersonal differences, and diversity, which we all love to rail against. The clash between people's simultaneous desire for homogeneity on the one hand (because they all want to be treated fairly), and their innate desire for independence of spirit and individuation, is what makes the world go round.
Some people are invariably considered more mad than others, throughout their lives, and are usually "outed" as such from a very early age. Having been the recipient of such treatment, and having by now accepted my position as an "outsider", in whatever group of people I find myself thrown together with; and being used to it by now, I have the following to say:
Madness is construed in various ways. When you see/ meet a “mad” person, you will know them immediately. There is something slightly strange, indeed, “mad” about them. They are not on the same planet.
This "strangeness" which the average bear sees in them, may, indeed, be exactly the opposite of what is typically construed as “madness”. These people may, indeed, be significantly saner, and less “mad”, than the vast majority of the population. They may, indeed, speak complete common sense, and have complete justification for their arguments, whereas the consensus adopted by the so-called "general population" could be construed as being entirely doolally, at the best of times.
“Mad” people see things in different ways. They do not see things in the same way as other people. They cannot, indeed, always necessarily articulate why they feel the strong emotions that they do; or, maybe, they can. When you see a "mad" person, remember that they are facing huge internal struggles which they have to come to terms with, and that the healing and regenerating process, in order to make the most of what they themselves have to offer (which is often very different from the rest of the world's expectations) can go on for a long, long time. The luckier "mad" people, may eventually manage to find some sort of resolution, and extract themselves from the deeper depths to which they are capable of sinking. By contrast, so-called "Normal Normans", or "Normas", may also find themselves floundering at some point, but will be at a loss to understand why; as they've either lacked self-awareness, or, never really been attuned to strong emotions as such, or, they've kept them under strict lock and key, and been in denial about them. They're usually the ones for whom the hair shirt of weirdness is too uncomfortable to wear; so that's why they attribute it to others who are paradoxically, quite comfortable in their own skin, thank you very much!
Those who would prefer to be mediocre, who champion the bland, who believe that value is by necessity, obtained by copying others; and who go through life unnoticed, devoid of distinguishing marks or characteristics, clearly have something wrong with them. The deliberate deflation of their own ego, and placing undue importance on falling in line, is an act of self-denial. Since when did being unexceptional, ever gain one an ounce of genuine self-respect?
“Mad” people are visionaries. They have ideas which are conventionally viewed as "odd", or "extreme" - and which, though they eventually conspire to change the world, do not always do so in their lifetime. The genius of J. S. Bach, for example, took the intelligence of Beethoven, to be acknowledged, justifiably, as the God-given craftsmanship that it clearly was.
“Mad” people often suffer greatly for their gifts to the world, and are overwhelmingly derided, undervalued, underrated and misunderstood, despite the fact, that what they have to contribute, may go above and beyond the usual expectations. Much more is expected of them than of others, though they may be deficient in crucial areas; and so the bar is set much higher for them, than for the normative individual.
They tend not to thrive in typically traditional learning environments, but are self-starters with curiosity, which extends beyond the prescribed curriculum, and so-called "authorities" often complain that they "can do nothing with them". Evenso, even when they are sick of being told that they should bring their offering in line with what society expects of them, they find, often through painful experience, that operating along more conventional lines does no-one any good. It does no good for society, and certainly nothing for their own sense of self-worth. Ultimately, people will only respect them most if they are true to themselves, and continue to build their own shrine to, and take care of, themselves; no matter how much society’s judgment has dented them in the process.
“Mad” people are not “mad” for the sake of it. They're not mad because they choose to be mad, or because they enjoy it, although from my own experience I can't deny a certain sensation of gladness, at the actual ability of being able to think along "different" lines; and in some ways, I feel lucky, that I am living in a place and time, where I can afford the luxury of doing so.
"Mad" people's ideas are not necessarily aimed to shock. They're just different; they think of things that no-one else would have ever thought of, and are therefore, independent of trends, or way ahead of their time. In fact, individuals who aim only to shock can merely be described as mediocre. True genius recognizes nobility and integrity; the intention will never be ignoble. But for some reason, "the mad" shock without trying, no matter if their ideas are built with a sense of integrity and goodness, and intended to lift humanity up. People don't want to believe that something "real" could be so "good". At their core, they believe only in badness, they have an inferiority complex, and are shocked by the madman's quality of ideas; the resourcefulness, the thought and planning behind them. People are outraged, that they took the time and trouble to think.
A “mad” person can often be an “army of one”. That is to say, that people will be so temporarily dumbstruck, upon meeting this person, that they will know there is something special about them, which they cannot put their finger on. They will be disturbed, and discomfited, and endlessly fascinated, even if in a perverse way. And then, after they've got over being dumbstruck, that's when they start to lay into this person, and denounce them.
Therefore, "madness” of the right kind is good for society. Because disturbance of the right kind – when one knows one is confronted with and stands opposite something which carries a higher power – is surely the way to create progress in this life - since the trials of the "mad" weigh as a heavy responsibility on their shoulders, and require superhuman strength to overcome. So, don't underestimate the mad; as they themselves, and the madness which can be crippling, but over time elevate them to a higher level, has the potential to benefit not just themselves, but also the rest of humanity.
And just remember, before signing off, that madness can happen to anyone. No-one is guaranteed exemption, as life is unpredictable; and though you might want to believe that you and your life are perfect - what you think today, might not be the same as what you think tomorrow. Everything might all get completely turned on its head, and seem to come out of nowhere; and as someone to whom this has happened many times, sometimes in continuous cycles (I now regard people with a certain level of circumspection), I think I'm entitled to say this with at least some justification.