Lately I have been shocked and concerned about what feels to me like an increasing incidence of psychosis in the general population. Perhaps we’ve always been this nuts, and it is only the digital communication age that allows us to be privy to the details of every village’s idiot and every small town’s shame, but I read stories that I cannot even fathom how they have come to pass, so frighteningly bizarre are they.
Take this guy, for instance. Apparently, he felt the call of god to begin a ministry, so he and his family up and went to Galveston, got a hotel room, wherein he threw his 2-year-old around, punched her in the groin, then consecutively put the child in the hotel safe, refrigerator, and running microwave while his wife was fetching the luggage from the car. God clearly had a wrong number here. The child has burns requiring skin grafts and is now in state custody, but the mother wants her back, claiming the devil made her husband do it because Satan was threatened by this psycho’s plan to become a preacher. (Not sure what he’d planned on preaching, although I suppose there’s no commandment barring refrigerating or nuking your child, so maybe he thought he was covered.) Even if you believe in Satan (which I don’t), I’d imagine you’d have a hard time believing that the embodiment of evil who has honed his dark craft among humankind through the ages would be threatened by a 19-year-old wannabe preacher. If anything, Satan was threatened by the competition, because cooking a child in a hotel microwave is far more diabolical than anything he could come up with.
But it’s not just these criminally insane folks that worry me. It’s the everyday, garden variety nuts that surround us, people who seem to lack even a nodding acquaintance with reality, with cause and effect, with the concept of consequences. We go to school with them, work with them, live with them, and I wonder how people live in the same world I do and yet do not operate under anywhere near the same rules, moral, ethical, physical, or cosmic. The functional nuts scare me more because of their vast number. People like Louis Farrakhan. If you listen to Louis for 5 minutes, you say to yourself, “I don’t know what people’s problem with him is. What he’s saying doesn’t seem unreasonable to me.” But if you listen to him for 10 minutes, you know what the problem is, as he makes a literal Crazy Ivan and goes off into a tangent about white devils that will widen your eyes in disbelief. I’ve met a lot of people like this; they say the only normal folks are those you don’t know very well, but I think there’s a difference between being eccentric and being unhinged. I’ve a friend who struggles with mental illness, and he is far more sane, logical, and intelligent than some folks I know who are supposedly okay. The more subtle your psychosis, I think, the more devastating. Because when you think you’re sane, and it never occurs to you you’re not, you get yourself into all kinds of trouble and cannot fathom how you got there. And you keep doing it.
Sooner or later, everyone goes to the zoo. But why are some people aware of it, while others have gotten comfy with the bars between them and everyone else, the tire swing, and throwing poop as a way of life? I have had my share of crazy moments in life, and I’m sure I’ve not seen the last of them, but I usually know when I’m there. If my beloved and I weren’t aware that PMS made me paranoid and more than a little irrational, Scott and I would’ve divorced years ago; awareness (and a good chocolate supply) make it possible for us to have celebrated our 13th wedding anniversary this past Tuesday.
My question is, have we always been this fragile, this damaged? Or is this a terrible side effect of modern life where we all know everything about everyone, but don’t know each other at all; where someone else’s problem is someone else’s problem until tragedy happens, and then it’s too late; where we’re interested enough in other people’s business to gossip but not interested enough to help. I don’t know. I know caring, loving people who live decent lives. I know lots and lots of them. I am not always pleasant, but being decent has never seemed much of a challenge to me, and I’m not sure why it is for others. But it seems to me that there’s probably a lot we can do to avoid creating human beings who microwave their kids, who shoot up classrooms, and, less tragically but more common, whose inability to see reality consistently sabotages them and makes life difficult for those around them, like our dear President, to pick a high-profile example, or Paris Hilton, who thought she was allowed to drive for work, regardless of the fact that she does not actually have a job.
We all have a certain amount of myopia regarding our own issues, but seem to have perfect clarity about others’, and perhaps that’s where the answer lies. Maybe if we buddied up and watched out for each other a little more, we’d all be a little more sane.
Maybe it’s just crazy enough to work.