Mind you, this could also happen to you. You see, with some experience, I reached the conclusion that we all have the potential for madness, but the degree of its manifestation is what really matters, in order to be considered as mental, or just slightly eccentric. The amount of crazy people though is very likely to be on the increase, considering the society in which we are living. Not that long ago, on a visit to a local pub to get a cup of coffee I noticed a teacher working at a local school talking with herself. Well, at least it appeared so, because despite my predisposition for what is medically known as hallucinations, I couldn’t spot anyone sitting next to her, and neither could the pub’s staff judging from their whispers.
“Look, look, she is talking with herself!” The waiters were obviously having a blast, and in all honesty, it looked very funny. The teacher was vividly gesticulating into the void and taking part in an animated dialogue with someone who was either invisible or a total illusion on her part. The hilarious part of it was that she was turning slightly to her right, as if indeed there was someone sitting next to her, and the scene looked surreal, as if we were on the set of a new episode of Harry Potter.
I have to admit that I also produced a couple of chuckles, because, first, well, it was quite comical, and secondly, I locked the eyes with the waiters who knew me quite well, and it would be impolite and rude not to join into the camaraderie building, even if admittedly it isn’t nice to laugh at the expense of another human being. But we all do it, despite the teachings of our parents and teachers (ironically so) to the contrary, and we all occasionally watch the funny bits on Facebook or YouTube where eager individuals upload the videos of people in funny distress. Did someone break their leg? Ha-ha-ha. Did he fall down the stairs? Ha-ha-ha. Was she just dumped? Ha-ha-ha.
Well, you know what I am talking about. Mean and unforgivable.
But once back at home I was quite sad that I had joined the laughing crowd, because the situation wasn’t that straightforward. You see, I had heard about that teacher. She was diagnosed as schizophrenic when it appeared that the profession of a teacher wasn’t as glamorous as the government had promised, when she found herself dealing with ungrateful teenagers and even more ungrateful parents, a mortgage which she had to pay even if she lost her job, and two own daughters to raise in the hope that they would become responsible individuals and do well in life. Which in our society has been reduced to getting a job, a house, a husband, a gym membership, and some sort of retirement. We have all the reasons to get mad, with the demands that we face in terms of how to be more or less successful in life.
But it wasn’t the knowledge of her personal circumstances which made me uncomfortable. It was the realisation that maybe it was us, the laughing public which had missed the obvious. What if, there was someone sitting next to her? I mean, how do we know? How come that we believe only what our eyes show us, and yet, buy in masses the most recent scam in the field of self-help? Why are we ready to spend a fortune on gurus telling us how to live our lives, and then laugh when we are confronted with a proof that there might be something else out there?
Why is it that we don’t believe anymore in the human story of the phenomenon of ‘madness’?
What if the teacher was indeed talking with someone, who was real, but her parallel world was only visible to her?
How come that nowadays we only believe in ‘science’ and some sort of ‘biochemical’ model, which doesn’t provide a concrete proof of anything, and yet, this is what we started to take for granted?
What happened to mystery and exploration of the ‘unknown’?
I wouldn’t ask this sort of questions if I wasn’t confronted with the debate first hand so to speak. Doctors call most of my experiences as delusions, but I strongly disagree. There is always a chance that the entire population might be delusional, and it is the mad who see the truth. But I should keep some humility, for now, and will leave the judgment to you.
(it was Hieronymus Bosch who asked this existential question in his panting ‘The Ship of Fools’. Who is really mad? The society or the innocent fool?)