the kingdom of joy
February 23, 2009, 13:35
Filed under: kingdom of joy

This is what I wrote in my journal today:my own particular madness

If you were mad but you didn’t know you were mad and your friends were too polite to say anything, how would you know? I wonder how many people think they are sane? What would it mean to be sane?

On the wall behind my desk I have a habit of sticking up quotes by writers whom I think of as my friends. One of them is by Pascal:

“Men [and women] are so necessarily mad that not to be mad would amount to another form of madness.”

That makes sense to me. Back to my journal:

Hence, it isn’t a question as to whether or not one is mad; it is more accurately a question of how mad is one. In a world where for the most part power resides in the hands of madmen [the madness can be found far more in men than women!] then hypothetically speaking there must be such a thing as being functionally mad.

In a talk I listened to the other day by Roger Walsh, he suggested that normality is a form of arrested development. He went on to say that one of the most radical notions in current psychological thought is that of adult development which I understood as the need for adults to never stop growing up. At first that didn’t sound to me like such a radical notion. I was surprised that he thought it was. But I figured he must know a lot more about what is going on out there in the world than I do. I’m not a psychologist. And I don’t go out very often. But I never stop thinking about what I am going to do when I grow up. When I was younger, as in teenager kind of younger, I imagined that being an adult was getting to this place where everything was in its proper place, that the goal of life was to get to this place and when you got there you could call yourself an adult. At least that was the impression I got from listening to the adults I knew. And implicit in this way of seeing things was that if you failed to find this place you would be a loser like my Uncle Gerald who never managed to get his act together. But it wasn’t long before I began to see how crazy this was. I wondered about what they meant when they referred to the act that everyone must get together. The way I understood it was that being an adult must mean acting like an adult and then I found myself wondering who it was that wrote the script. I discovered that adults who behaved as if they had their act together were adults I didn’t want to know. I think that if I ever think that I’ve got my act together I want to hold a pillow over my head until I stop breathing.

Coming back to the issue of madness. I think the question isn’t whether or not I am mad but more what kind of mad do I want to be: the arrested kind or the unarrested kind? If you’re not completely out of your mind––meaning a saint or a lunatic or both––then any wavering from the normal arrested variety of madness means that you’re a loser like my Uncle Gerald who never got his act together, that you failed to measure up to the status quo sort of madness. If you’re not successfully mad than you’re a mad failure. If others don’t appreciate your act, then they condescend or pity it. ‘Poor her, she just couldn’t get her act together.’ Now that I am more mature wallowing in my own particular and idiosyncratic blend of madness, I’m convinced that real freedom and liberty is when we fully and openly embrace our own act; that anyone who accepts or even celebrates their own madness, granted that their particular form of madness doesn’t cause any other living being grief or pain, would be someone who has entered into the kingdom of joy.
Given that I have made a resolution to bring more joy into my life, I think what I need to do is surrender to my own madness and only then can I too enter the kingdom of joy. Nietzsche said that God is dead. I say sanity is dead! I have spent so much of my life trying to be normal and sane without ever really understanding what that means. Why is it that we are so afraid to let go and be who we really are? What are we holding onto? What is it that we fear will happen? Is it because we want to fit in, to belong, to feel secure, to not find ourselves banished to the suburbs of third rate acts? Maybe it’s as simple as wanting my mother and father to love me and the only way they would ever love me was if everyone else loved me too––my grade school teachers, the priest, my boss, my husband, my wife, my children––it never ends. We want to be normal and sane so that we can be loved because when we are loved we feel like we belong. Even though my mother and father died when I was just a kid and even though they weren’t very good at loving anyone least of all themselves, still all I really want is for them to love me. No wonder I’m crazy! But now I want to be the kind of crazy that gets to live in the kingdom of joy. Here is another quote on my wall, this one by Tom Merton in a letter to Henry Miller:

“It seems to me that the only justification for a man’s [or woman’s] existence in this present world is for him [her] to either be a convict, or a victim of plague, or a leper, or at least to look like one of these things.”

(Letter from Merton to Henry Miller August 16, 1964  (Courage for Truth p280) )

crazy meI think that I look like all three.


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