Visiting the Nuthouse

Yes, I know what you are thinking.

Why should you care what a nut-case has to say? Well, to begin with, it might be amusing. Admit it, that is what you expected anyway, isn't it? And that is OK; we screwballs are used to being laughed at.

But I am afraid that I am what is sometimes regarded as a Dangerous Lunatic. Not in the Norman Bates sense, not physically dangerous. I am dangerous because I am one of those promoting the — Lunatic Agenda! Yes, I want to recruit you, to seduce you into Lunacy!

There, I said it. Not that I have much of a chance, really. Not unless you are . . . susceptible.

We lunatics are mostly specialists. There are many forms of madness. There are the chemically induced forms, of which Timothy Leary was a leading prophet. There are genetically disposed forms — the kinds you read about in psychology textbooks.

And there is my kind.

What we all have in common is that we see, experience, and understand the world differently from you sane folks. We see things that you do not see. And even more importantly, we do not see things that you do see.

Sanity is safe; insanity is dangerous. Terrifying. (And not in a fun, amusement-park sort of way). That is why society has always guarded against it so carefully. So what blandishments can I offer you in my endeavor to seduce you? Yes, madness is scary, but my sort is not the kind that provides easy thrills—far from it.

What you might get from your dip into the hellish darkness of lunacy is . . . that you might learn something. (I imagine that I just scared away about 95% of you right there!) Indeed, my kind of wacko has been known to change the world. They have—on extremely rare occasions—been able to make the rest of the world see things the way they do. Of course when that happens they cease to be thought of as lunatics. Roles are reversed. The sane people who attacked them become the crazy ones.

But since that happens only extremely rarely, what might you expect to learn from a nut-case?

The things one can learn from a madman are the most important things in the world, things that bring about new epochs, revolutionize the world, and open up whole new fields of understanding. But they are very difficult to learn.

They are difficult not because they are complex and recondite, requiring exceptional intelligence and long, arduous study. They are usually quite simple. The things we have learned from madmen of the past (and whom we no longer regard as lunatics) are often things that seem obvious and even childishly simple. We cannot understand why our ancestors could not grasp them. We usually conclude that they were stupid and we are, oh, so much smarter. But it is not likely that Aristotle, St. Augustine, and Thomas Aquinas were intellectually inferior to the average schoolchild of today although those worthies held as obvious ideas we all now reject as ludicrous.

Why should ideas regarded as the most obvious common sense by one age be rejected as idiocy by another age composed of folks really no more intelligent than citizens of the former? Unfortunately, if this were easy to explain it probably would not be the case. That is, to understand this kind of blindness in others would necessarily be to understand it in ourselves, and if we could easily see past our own blindness we would no longer be blind.

[Next page: Accomplished Lunatics of the Past]