Included in a forthcoming full length philosophy collection.
Sanity becomes a disease when it attempts to strangle creativity and progress.
Sanity is the continual feedback from other humans that we are aware, conscious, and supposedly “normal.” As we walk about the world, we look at other humans, walking by each other we wave. This is a sort of subliminal message, or even a practical sign, that we are indeed sane. In other words, we are on the same wavelength as the rest of society, or we are acting appropriately or pleasingly according to the defined social or cultural norms. Though we view the supposed sanity as a fruitful and prosperous thing, is it so for the individual? Is it so for all individuals? This turns the mind of the reader to question what benefit sanity may have at all. What is distasteful about insanity? What do we define insanity as? A chemical imbalance of the brain, or emotional exploration? A line must be defined before continuing further in this productive discussion. In this essay, insanity will be referenced in the sense of creative or emotional exploration and expression rather than genuine disorder or imbalance. In simple terms, psychological rather than medical.
In a beginning example, what happens to someone who is kept in solitary confinement? They will likely go insane, or at least have a much greater likelihood of becoming such. I ask the reader, what if they have become sane by being alone and can no longer tolerate our “sanity”? Has our collective sanity become actual insanity; how would we know if that was indeed true? I pose many questions, precisely without answers, as to leave the mind of the reader in a state of questioning.
In the illustration of the psych hospital, we see that anyone who spent any reasonable amount of time within the hospital became psychologically insane due to treatment as though they were insane. Does that mean that through treatment as though we were something, trick our mind into believing we are such? In this scenario, such is implied and thus unreasonable. A man who is treated as a child will not start to believe he is a child in any sense. The man who is treated in that way may actually react negatively and with violence to such treatment as he believes to be degrading to his status as an adult. This implies that people believe that they are inherently entitled to something greater as an adult than a child. This is a worthwhile idea to be further developed in further writing and discussion in a separate instance.
The masses of people call someone insane, generally, in our defined sense, when they have committed an act that is outside of the cultural or social norms. To use the childhood phrase, they are not thinking outside of the box. Another example would be that everyone in the room has taken medication for allergies and are thus drowsy, while one person has not. This means that the one person may be able to see the true reality, or what he believes to be such, much clearer than the rest of the room. What about if those who have taken the medication are more aware of slight detail which the “clearer” mind can not decipher? This leads the narrative to a paradoxical element that has been debated for recorded millennia. What is reality? With regards to the concise form of this essay and the history of discussion, that will not be answered in the following. Rather, the questions and complexities continue when simply we could say, everyone has a different point of view.
Going through the train of thought to see that everyone has a “different point of view” leads the essay in the direction once again of simplicity. Well, of course, everyone has a different point of view due to their background or upbringing or even personal beliefs, but we have now added the layer of unique psychological states onto this argument. Adding this layer, I find it useful to craft an example to further illustrate the conclusion of this element of the journey.
While looking at a blank white page with a black line through the middle, the onlookers individually state, confidentially, what they believe to be the meaning behind the piece of artwork. Each person will come up with their own interpretation about the artwork due to their background or what they believe that the artist is attempting to express due to his or her background. They may state something that reflects their current state of mind, it may even be affected by the weather or the people standing about them. Then we are able to say that the reality with each individual is a variation that is unique to them in the sense of the artwork experiment. Further, we can clearly see that there is a great possibility that the surrounding environment may have impacted their viewing of the art.
How does this lead us back to the original argument of sanity? Well, how is one to decide if another is sane if that person is a variation on the standard reality? Does a standard or default reality exist independent of the human who is viewing it? If each person is uniquely viewing reality through their crafted lens so to speak, how are we to say that they are insane? We can not look into their mind nor decipher their experiences even with modern science to the degree that we could fully recreate their inherent reality at that time and place. Further, they have not willingly made this reality unique most likely but are passively living it out without thinking or attempting to change it in any sense. Does reality exist independent of personality, or is it tied to consciousness?
A writer who challenges the conventional or societal ideals publicly may very well be labeled with this misleading name of “insane.” One may conclude that he is “insane” due to his personal beliefs being in the extreme minority in comparison to the greater society that he lives amongst. This likely has a great impact on his life, both socially, and economically, and therefore the greater local community.
Attempting to answer questions that I posed at the beginning of this essay, insanity in the defined sense of being a psychological or ideological oddity, and thus in the minority, is what society constitutes as valid credentials for judgment upon that individual for the label of insanity and exclusion. Insanity in this sense is not to be viewed as a negative or degrading value or psychological state, but rather as an outlying unique opinion. Creative or artistic insanity is at odds with industrialism and the mindset of working for the common “progress” and thus is also likely seen as a negative in the viewpoint of nearly any ideology. Is artistic insanity a valuable thing? I would argue that it is indeed so, for the world would be far less technologically advanced today if the people who were labeled as “insane” did not continue regardless.
Without this form of insanity, many nations on the face of the earth today would not be in operation. Likewise, many of our greatest leaders, inspirations, and artists would not have succeeded without going against the prevailing psychological conditions of the period. Therefore, these unique psychological states which produce outlying ideas are incredibly valuable to the world and humanity as a whole.
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© Philosophical Rambler 2021
1 thought on “Sanity as a Disease”
“In a mad world only the mad are sane.” ~ Kurosawa
Good essay, intriguing thoughts. *insanity* is a condition with a variety of meanings and effects and I think you captured that. Indeed I agree that insanity can be the ultimate creative boon and can break barriers or help decondition bad systems of thought. And also – pure sanity is boring af! 😆