I have a friend who is obsessed with the idea of not dying. He fears death to the point that he can’t sleep at night. He lays awake and listens to the sound of his heart beating. It tortures him. I have discussed this with him many times because I fear many things, but dying is not one of them. I don’t believe in an afterlife. Neither does he. That is why he fears it. Ironically, that is why I don’t find the idea intimidating. If everything is going to be over, there is no point worrying about it.
This same friend has a brother. When they were young “adults”, his brother was diagnosed as schizophrenic. My friend doesn’t worry about losing his mind. To me, this is baffling. I am not on some kind of death mission, but when it comes, so be it. Hopefully it will be when I’m old. Hopefully it will be painless for me and for those around me. But we have little control over that. Ever since I can remember, however, I have been terrified of losing my mind. The idea that I might wake up one morning convinced that the government is watching me, frightened to go outside, unable to recognize reality…that is worth being afraid of. The brain is very fragile, yet remarkably resilient. But, what can I say? Shit happens.
I have recently realized that I have been losing my mind slowly for a long, long time now. I don’t need hospitalization. I don’t need a straightjacket. I am just like everyone else. This is the realization I’ve come to. Some forms of insanity are obvious. There is no denying that the foul smelling, dirty man wandering around Golden Gate Park looking for Jimi Hendrix is crazy. But, just because we hide it better, and are afflicted less obviously, does not mean that we aren’t detached from reality in our own special and unique ways.
I worry about germs more than anyone should. I worry that people are judging me constantly. But everyone has their bit. Everyone I know is crazy in some way. Everyone I know believes or behaves in a way that is totally rational to them, but strikes everyone else as utterly ridiculous. I’ve been giving this some thought. Here’s how I see it.
The brain is a mystery and, even though we assume that we all have relatively the same brain, there is no real reason to believe that this is true. It doesn’t even make sense. We all have different eyes, why would our brains be identical? So, I’m going to assume that everyone is given a slightly different, incredibly complicated brain. Now, the world is madness. We can handle it on a day to day basis, most of us, but the complexity of the world is enough to drive anyone crazy. You combine that with the fact that everyone is running off their own operating system and it’s a wonder we’re not all looking for Jimi Hendrix.
We get crazier as we get older. More stuck in our ways. More attached to our little delusions. Our pet theories. Our ideas of what will work in life. Convinced that wheat is the root of all evil. Afraid of failure to the point that we stop taking risks. Whatever. We all have our crazy.
It amazes me that we can all get along for the most part. Murder and mayhem are rare, but when you think about the fact that the world is populated by autonomous nut jobs, that seems pretty remarkable. I think it is important that we don’t judge each other’s crazy. You’re convinced that if you eat a burger in a circular pattern at exactly noon then your lottery ticket will win? Fine with me. You think you can taste the difference between ‘organic’ milk and regular? OK. You think that your doctor isn’t telling you something? So be it. Me? I’m going to go wash my hands.