What disturbs us most about others is that which is that which is imperfect in ourselves. A statement similar to this was brought up in the comments section I came across on Facebook the other day. This is nothing new nor earth-shattering; its a notion that philosophers have noticed through the ages.
Someone, somehow, at some time in history experienced an epiphany about this aspect of thinking and behavior. It might be argued that this sudden flash of intuition was not only a stroke of genius, it was a touch of madness.
We understand the word “madness” to be a non-clinical term for insanity. In turn, insanity is basically a spectrum of behavior and thinking patterns that go beyond social norms. Examples of this spectrum might range from the creative mind of Mozart to the very dangerous mind of Joseph Stalin. Both of these historical figures had more than a touch of madness. Hopefully, most of us who are reading this paragraph have thinking more like Mozart’s.
Why do we feel so disturbed about Stalin and unworried about Mozart? It may have something to do with that unspoken part of our mind, our darker side. What really makes us feel tension is that anyone can experience the horrific thoughts of a tyrannical dictator. Very few of us can enter the mental territory of a great composer of complex music.
Sometimes, unfortunate events in our lives expose an unsettling madness. Usually it is some sort of life crisis. Maybe the loss of a job, a breakup of a romance, the death of a loved one, a serious change in one’s own health status. For awhile, we lose the sense of centeredness, our feelings of security, our basic sense of self.
After such an upsetting event we might wonder who we are. How should we behave or function? If some sort of political or natural catastrophe causes us to lose our home, we will feel dislocated and unconnected. Our mental state during and directly after these types of events are anything but normal. We feel insecure and maybe even slightly crazy.
So, we can think of madness as a mental departure from equilibrium. We hope sooner, rather than later we can resolve this imbalance and resume our “normal” lives.
While listening to Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s “Jupiter” symphony this past weekend, I thought about his particular madness. Undoubtedly, he was aware of his abnormality. Did he seek to ride near the crest of his mild insanity? I mentally visualized him riding a rolling wave on a surfboard. He had to control his position to maintain that “sweet spot” in order to ride the wave all the way to the shore. In Mozart’s case, the wave represented the act of writing the score and the shore represented the performance of the piece by an orchestra.
Could Mozart have appreciated the crazy analogy of him as a surfer? I think he would have had a good laugh about it.
Thoughts arise and pass away. How long we cling to them and what we do with them are what determines sanity or madness. We all have a little bit of Stalin and a little bit of Mozart in our minds. How do they manifest in your life?