Insanity

What is insanity? The most familiar definition that comes to mind is from Einstein who said, “insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” It is peculiar to think of insanity this way, particularly because it flies in the face of normalcy. Many believe that the socially responsible and acceptable thing to do is to adhere to certain norms and customs and traditions, and that these will allow you to adequately function in society. What normalcy doesn’t guarantee, however, is individuality, or originality. To be an individual, one must do things differently and expect different results. But what of a society that values doing things differently only to achieve the same results, such as participating in all the counter-cultural rituals to gain acceptance as an ‘individual’ ? Can it be said that such a person has achieved individuality?

‎”Insanity in individuals is something rare – but in groups, parties, nations and epochs, it is the rule.” -F.Nietzsche

Insanity. What I find insane is society. Civilization. Tradition. Custom. Ritual. Don’t get me wrong, I appreciate the utility of consistency. I understand the pragmatic element of predictability, from a linguistic standpoint as well as a logical and epistemological standpoint. After all, learning curves are greatly reduced by assimilating the knowledge past down by forbearer, no? And we can’t very well go about creating our own neologistic language and expect to be effective interpersonally, now can we?  But where do we draw the line between maintaining and gaining? Passing on and passing over? Subsisting and thriving? Progress requires change. Change requires adaptation. If we sell out to maintain the status quo, if we fail to commit to the efflorescent incarnations of possibility in favor of the denouement of equilibrium, we must embrace our death; for we have already died.

Society is insane. Look at the way they scuttle around in the rat race, trying to secure these temporal provisions; see how they frantically instill meaning and comfort into fabricated facticities. Observe the perduring populous that embodies repetition; always allied to the alacritous attachment of doing the same thing, over and over again, and always expecting different results. If you keep doing what you’re doing, you’ll keep getting what you’re getting. In the end everyone’s demise is the same. Society is a self-fulfilling prophecy; a reflexive perpetuation proselytizing more of the same. The social consciousness does not readily expand but rather, it promptly strengthens itself onto itself.

So what is insanity? A break from conventional norms, I suppose. So sanity, once again, is doing the same thing over and over again. The endorsement of cultural customs, e.g. materialism, hedonism, consumerism, aceticism, celebrityism, sciencism, etc. I suppose the great majority of people think they aren’t insane because they don’t expect different results. Predictability is offered as a sycophant of security.

That is the real tragedy. When people not only do the same thing over and over again, but they do not expect different results. They have been sedated or conditioned or desensitized to rudimentary routines and rituals. 9 to 5. Primary, secondary, tertiary schooling, followed by a stint of rebellious youth, cue the career, make room for marriage, corral some kids, restfully retire, and then comes the inevitable surprise of death.

Sanity: “Doing the same thing over and over again and expecting the same results.” This rationalist program will inevitably suffer the same stifling fate as freedom. Time waits for no man. If you are not progressing, you are regressing. Life is meant to flourish. Growth and evolution should be the cynosure of contemplation, the mark of progress. But not by any quantitative measure imposed by external authority. It should be an inward journey. Growth is not static.

A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds, adored by little statesmen and philosophers and divines. With consistency a great soul has simply nothing to do. He may as well concern himself with his shadow on the wall. Speak what you think now in hard words, and to-morrow speak what to-morrow thinks in hard words again, though it contradict every thing you said to-day. — ‘Ah, so you shall be sure to be misunderstood.’ — Is it so bad, then, to be misunderstood? Pythagoras was misunderstood, and Socrates, and Jesus, and Luther, and Copernicus, and Galileo, and Newton, and every pure and wise spirit that ever took flesh. To be great is to be misunderstood.”  -R.W. Emerson

Insanity is characterized by senseless or abnormal behavior by societal standards. But how amazing it is to look at societal standards! Especially through the perspective lens of time! How standards change!

So the question of insanity remains. Are you insane for following your desires? Even if your desires lead to your demise? Even if they cast you into chains? Even if they toss you into pain and hardship? Would you be willing to escape sanity and embrace the lucres of authentic freedom? At what price?

Men are never really willing to die except for the sake of freedom: therefore they do not believe in dying completely.
-A. Camus

 

Watching itself

‘An intellectual is a person whose mind watches itself’. -Albert Camus

I suppose my goal in life is to be as objective as possible. To examine and weigh in on every volitional and nonvolitional act or thought. To totally observe.

When a man asked why I was studying economics and philosophy, I told him off hand that I suppose I was trying make some sense of this world and all its happenings. He appeared thoughtful and said, “May I suggest that instead of trying to make sense of it, we observe it and learn as much as we can from what we see.” (more or less)

I don’t know why, but this was pretty damn profound. At that moment I was like, ah-ha. All we can really do is observe anyway. No sense can be found. There is no sense to it all. Thats a fastidious, if not impossible, undertaking. But to observe… ahh… now theres something.

My knowledge will help me be a better observer.

Relating back to that quote. I’m not going to make sense of this world, this life or myself. I will simply observe. I will watch it with ardent curiosity. I will no doubt learn the patterns and cycles and trends that inevitably come around. I will be wiser for it. I will observe the timeless.

Be the change you see in the world.

I had a good night tonight. I can barely feel my fingers as I type this out. Later than expected, I found myself wondering if I could manage the colossal mountain of work I’d been over dramatizing in my head. I found myself doing my best to catch up on sleep throughout the day. Minutes and hours here and there. Nothing too worthy to be called a recovery. Eventually I found myself eager to change what was starting to become a daily routine of ideal wishing.  I sat there at dinner and talked of motivation with other desperate bodies longing for some kind of intangible compulsory that would inspire them.  I felt a rush of invigoration and began talking with a tone of hope. Dreams and aspirations… the people that I live amongst. The people inhabiting the world. The vast majority. What do they think it takes to be successful? To exist in ideal circumstances? Everyone has their own conception of what that is of course, but I find it pretty sad when they attribute the magnificent powers of success to factors outside their control. How depressing. They scrounge and crawl to these dreams. What kind of dream is that? Where crawling and feeble begging and lost hope intertwine all together as a means to fulfill the desires residing in the depths of their soul? I call it soul. Its whatever you are deep inside- Who you are. What’s sad is the lack of faith. They contain the power they long to feel. It resides in them, untapped. Like a spring waiting to give life to all who put the energy to dig deep enough. So sad.
So I sat there this evening, dwelling with ever flowing surges and waves of thought. I refused to drown in my own state of helplessness. I decided to remind myself, and anyone that would listen, of our potential; using words that could penetrate their weak excuses for a state anything less than ideal. Perfect is my state. I began talking about faith. Not hope. Beyond hope. Hoping is wishing for circumstances that are beyond your our immediate control.  That’s another excuse to lay back and be victimized. Everything it takes to be successful resides within you. You have what it takes. You don’t have to wish or hope any longer. No more sadness. No more waiting for better days.
I talked. They listened with eagerness. “Our chief want is someone who will inspire us to be what we know we could be.”(Emerson).  Whom we always wanted to be. My desire is to provide a sliver of inspiration that induces motivation.
I talked and their eyes became fixated on words that transcended their immediate listening and penetrated their hearts; to a place where they dwelt where they were alone, where they wished someone would provide the comfort of an idea they could believe would rescue them. A breath of hope that blows gently on the embers of their desires so they could see the flames that give the light they need to travel on, far beyond the shadows of doubt.
I want to offer that as much as I want to hear it. I talked. They listened. They heard what I said. Human experience is something far more powerful than any book; than any of the scholarly text that lead us to believe this or that. Scholarly writings only exist to confirm universal human experiences. When you haven’t experienced, you cannot take the words of another without leading yourself into a realm where you have no agency of understanding. You are blind and grabbing at abstracts. The words of human experience resonate deep and wide and can be universally translated even through the gaze of the eyes. They hit you deep and you understand.
As I exchanged these words of penetration I myself began to realize what I often neglect as relevant human experience. How foolish. We know the answers yet we struggle to find the strength to believe in them, even when they lay within our reach.

I went out tonight. I found myself churning through pages and pages of essays. One by one I flipped the pages of readings, gently tapping away at my keyboard with every insight I overturned. I managed to produce a four page research paper in a matter of no more than four hours. I was pleased with my work and debated the possibilities of exploring some social activities this evening. My intentional better half longed to finish all the homework scheduled for the lengthy weekend ahead, but my wise yet understanding social half decided otherwise. I would make a phone call to casually inquire about any nightly activities ahead. I struck fortune and no longer than an hour later I found myself laughing and conversing with other jubilant comrades who were just as thrilled as I.  The temperature dropped well below freezing. My estimations lead me to believe we hung out in a range far below negative fifteen degrees. Maybe single digits. It didn’t matter though. Valentine whiskey, Budweiser and Coors light beer? Any combination calls for a party. And we did.
A wonderful array of personalities collided into a beautiful hum of snickers and hugs and pictures and smiles. It was nice. Relationships blossomed and a strange comforting security swept over the usual anxiety.

I had a good time. it was cold. It was pretty much equivalent  to anything you’d encounter in anything north of 50deg latitude. I felt like an Eskimo. It was good though. There were a lot of people I was glad to talk to for a change. A lot of people i hadn’t had the chance to converse in serious dialog with.

All day tomorrow is homework and study day. Accounting and English. 🙂