I tend to be somewhat of a loner, for the most part, and I cherish my solitude. And since I do spend so much time alone, I naturally would need someone to talk to on occasion. That person, of course, is myself. I think that I would go crazy if I couldn’t talk to myself! I mean, who knows my mind better than I do? My alterego and I are great pals. We play games, we argue. “That’s Debussy.” ‘No, I’ll bet it’s Ravel.’ “Whaddya wanna bet?” ‘Ha, ha, I won!’ When I play solitaire computer Scrabble with four players, I play all the hands myself, so I don’t care who wins. Being that I had my brother and other childhood friends to play with while growing up, I never had need of an imaginary friend, like some lonely, only children tend to conjure up while they’re young. I am quite content to have myself, who is very real and far from imaginary, to converse and play with.
I used to be critical of people who talk to themselves in public. I, and others too, would consider them cuckoo and off their rocker. Then I caught myself one day, while walking on the street, talking back! I realized then that the people around me must think that I am as loony as all those other nuts on the street who talk to themselves. So now I am not so quick to judge. I talk out loud to myself and I sing out loud to myself often. When I go out anywhere, on foot or on my bike, I almost always am listening to music on my portable player, and I will be singing along or practicing a song that I have to learn perhaps. So maybe some of those other people that do that aren’t any crazier than I am. They could be working or just amusing themselves just like me, or nowadays it turns out that they may be talking on the phone, using their hands-free blue-tooth capability. While watching TV at home, I often talk out loud to myself about what’s happening on the screen.
But then, what is crazy anyway? Who is crazy? Who isn’t? I suppose it is determined by one’s behavior, but doesn’t everybody do something out of the ordinary or act abnormally at some moments in their life? If someone reports a strange occurrence without corroboration, for instance, they are often deemed to be drunk or crazy. But what if that person is telling the truth and did see what they said they did?
In The Prince and the Pauper (1937) two look-alike boys exchange places, and judged only by the way they are dressed, nobody believes them to be who they say they are. When Tom Canty swears that he is not the prince but a beggar boy, the courtiers deem him to be mad. Why is he mad if he is telling the truth? And of course, they don’t believe the real prince either. So just because you don’t accept their wild story, it doesn’t make them crazy. I say, first, disprove their claim before you decide that they are crazy. Therefore, crazy assessment is based on one’s perception of somebody, not necessarily how they really are.
Why should the person with heightened perception, acute mental powers or having the ability to tap into the spiritual or supernatural world be considered crazy? So like, I am able to see the ghost in the room, and you can’t, but I’m the crazy one! In the Doctor Dolittle remake (1998), when Eddie Murphy is discovered being able to communicate with animals, of course his family and friends think that he has lost his mind. “Nobody can do that.“ But just because you can’t, it doesn’t mean that someone else couldn’t possibly be able to. It seems that whenever someone displays a special ability beyond common normalcy, people tend not to believe it or accept it and will deem that person to be not-all-there. If they can do something that you can’t do, that doesn’t make them crazy. If someone has innovative ideas or radical beliefs, they’re crazy. Even if you believe in something that someone else finds too incredible to be accepted as real, then you are the crazy one for believing such a thing. Why not encourage someone’s special psychic gifts and innovations rather than making them feel that they’re mentally unbalanced or delusional?
How is one supposed to answer if asked directly, “Are you crazy?” That sounds more like an accusation than a question anyway. To deny it outright would not convince them, because you must have done or said something to prompt the question in the first place. I don’t know why somebody would even say that to a person without some provocation. Then who would admit that they are crazy when they don’t agree and may not even realize it if, in fact, they are? Most may not question their own sanity until someone else questions it. “I don’t know. Am I? Why do you ask?”
Similar is the judgmental, “Have you lost your mind?” or “I think I am losing my mind.” How can one lose what is inherent in all of us? If you have a change of opinion or think along different lines, then that’s all it is. It doesn’t mean that you’re crazy. And of course, craziness has nothing to do with one’s lack of intelligence. Some of the most brilliant minds have also been stark, raving lunatics, like your mad scientists, your political despots and some religious fanatics.
In all the movies where someone (let’s say a man) is wrongfully committed to a mental institution, he finds it so difficult, if not impossible, to prove his sanity. If he protests by kicking and screaming and proclaiming, “I’m not crazy! I don’t belong here! It’s a mistake!” the hospital personnel don’t believe him. Naturally he would say that. They don’t expect him to admit that he is crazy. Isn’t his very agitation an indication that he is seriously unbalanced? If he keeps quiet and does not put up any resistance, however, then he really must be crazy or he would say something to the contrary, wouldn’t he? It’s a catch-22. You can’t win either way.
There is a French-British film that I like called King of Hearts (1966) which satirically examines social sanity. Alan Bates is a Scottish soldier who is sent on a suicide mission to blow up an evacuated French town during World War I. The only inhabitants left behind are the inmates of the local “insane” asylum. Bates soon befriends the mental patients there and even falls in love with one of them (Genevieve Bujold). He sees how really nice and caring these so-called nuts are. They welcome him into their family—they even crown him King—and he sees how happy they all are and innocently oblivious of the outside world. Then he thinks about what is going on outside—the bombings of cities and the genocide—so he begins to question, which ones are the crazy, irrational people, these basically harmless folks in here or those gratuitous murderers out there?
Bates ultimately decides to stay in there with the alleged loonies! I don’t know who decided that these characters were insane or a danger to society anyway. They seem perfectly normal to me. Many of them are into innocent role-playing, but so is almost everybody else. It is basically true that “all the world’s a stage, and we are all merely actors.“ Many of us go through life play-acting and pretending to be somebody else. So by that criterion, we all must be crazy in some way. Those inmates in the film seem intelligent, articulate, talented and certainly non-threatening. It’s a sorry state of affairs when a person’s benign non-conformity is grounds for commitment to an asylum.
In 1950’s Harvey, too, James Stewart’s character, Elwood P. Dowd, has for a friend a pooka, which takes the form of a 6-foot-3½-inch, invisible rabbit. And although Elwood is completely harmless–in fact, he is the sweetest, kindest, most polite and friendliest person you’d ever want to know; everybody likes him–just because he talks to this rabbit that only he can see, everybody considers him a real nut, and his distraught sister and niece want to have him committed to a sanitarium, as if confinement would rid him of his delusion. So what if Elwood is an alcoholic? He doesn’t deserve to be locked up, as he is no dangerous threat to society. Shouldn’t a person be allowed to have their personal fantasies, whether they are real or imaginary, without the harsh judgment and the threat of commitment, especially if they are otherwise a good person and who is not hurting anybody? Truth be told, I believe that we all have some kind of mental flaw, including myself, but not enough to require institutional commitment. As it turns out, Harvey proves himself to be real after all when he appears to other characters in the story, including Elwood’s sister and the director of the sanitarium! So now, are they crazy, too, or less judgmental of Elwood?
(# …A flibbertigibbet, a will-o’-the-wisp, a clown… #)
For myself, I prefer to be around people who are a little eccentric, oddball, offbeat, quirky, strange, wacky. I find them to be much more interesting and entertaining than those who are always trying to act “normal” and fit in. In all dramatic situations and even in literature we want colorful characters that are larger than life. On TV sitcoms it is often the supporting players, like Sheldon Cooper (“The Big Bang Theory”), Barney Fife (“The Andy Griffith Show”) and Steve Urkel (“Family Matters”), for example, who become viewers’ favorites over the star of the show. Ordinary commonness is boring, in my opinion, and does not make for good theater.
Now, I don’t like simple or dizzy people in real life, those who are in a constant state of mental confusion, and chronic stupidity and excessive silliness get on my nerves. But I like your rebels who challenge the status quo and don’t always do things that are expected of them. Since I can admit that I have certain quirks myself, my close friends, too, tend to be a little off, or at least accepting of my own personality foibles. But they, in turn, have to be intelligent, open-minded, and have a good sense of humor. I don’t take myself too seriously, as you must have surmised by now from my writings, and they shouldn’t either.