Ramblings: on mania, and the search for meaning

The sight of words on a page are the only silence my brain may have. Rather than being some kind of ‘outlet’, it is the purest form of existence, to be in the act of creation. The way my brain reacts to conditions, to rules, to control and to the regions that ignite paranoia is evidence, not of insanity, but of what to me seems to be the greatest sanity: the search for meaning.

The idea that there is nothing, no hope, no meaning, in any task provokes in me such total distress that my body and mind revolt. Rather than running away, I am searching for something that I believe exists. This is how the manic brain can function. This is why insanity is a solace to society. Without the desperate merging of our darkest fears with our deepest hopes, our art would be devoid of depth and our attempts to elucidate life deemed irrational. Without insanity, there can be no love.

And so to write, to create, is to become something new. Something outside of ourselves. Rather than being some kind of symptom of higher intelligence, insanity feels like a rushing body of water that sweeps the things underneath its path that are destructive to the end goal: sense. In a world that is commonly nonsensical, there is no use in attempting to justify the frivolity of mental aberrations, and their behaviors. The reckless, chaotic search for meaning is the only search that a person can truly undertake; and to remove the chaos denies the end goal. For there can be no true discovery without turning things over, smashing, re-building, without resurrection and ruin. The life of the un-insane is one marked by solace – satiating behaviours, sense, collation. The manic mind searches for lucidity in exploration and expression, rather than reduction.

So in the night, when my failing mind is absolved in black strokes against a page, don’t deny me the privilege of fragmented clarity that comes with the exoneration of my insanity.

It is the reason that to the insane mind, much of modern philosophy is panic. The decision that life has no meaning is the greatest trigger we can come up against. Charles The Mad of Fourteenth Century France believed that if people touched him he would shatter into a million shards – a reasonable fear, if you are seeking for life in its greatest depth. While the manifestations of these fears seem unreasonable to many of us (spitting, eating strange foods, switching light bulbs on and off or going into periods of extended jubilee or depression), I would ask how a ‘normal’ person would feel given the same forcible insight into their own mortality that those dealing with mental aberrations do.

The level of introspection a mentally ‘ill’ person is capable of is often far beyond the norm, and hugely irrelevant to day to day life. Which is exactly the point – the insane are not concerned with day to day life. Being precisely why they bother people, and why, some of them, can create things of magnitude and importance – the kind of things with ongoing significance that is discovered years after they finally succumb to their greatest fear – death. Is it any wonder why we kill ourselves? Is not the human spirit destined to find and confront its greatest fears?

Princess Alexandra of Bavaria convinced herself that she swallowed a glass piano as a child, and would wear nothing but white. A reasonable assertion for somebody who has never seen their own insides torn asunder. A reasonable colour, for somebody who wants to be clean and whole, who is so wary of the darkness that exists within her that she cannot bear to have it manifest on her body. And the sexual fascination – the masturbatory stories from centres for the mentally insane (or the mentally obstinate). The sexualisation of insanity in pop culture, films, books – a depiction of society’s obsession with the way it exhibits. But the sexuality of the insane is another arena in the great play, another avenue to pine and long and search for meaning. Sex is the greatest motivator, the greatest proof that we are alive and kicking. Sexual frustration and exploration is the greatest evidence of life in force, the orgasm the greatest evidence that there is everything magic, and nothing at all insane and wonderful about the way we are.

The glass horse exists within us all, but seems more evident to the insane. The desire to examine ourselves from the inside out, and the understanding that beneath our skin is something hollow and easily broken. The glass horse is a metaphor for the easily persecuted self – and a depiction of the self as a mirror, both transient and reflective. The glass horse can also represent the precarious position of the mind, safe when stagnant, reigned, but when it is unleashed it can break into irretrievable pieces.

Consider the glass house life of Zelda Fitzgerald, muse of the infamous “F” Scott Fitzgerald, whose passionate reckless love inspired his glamorous prose. Zelda fell into a life of alcoholism spurred by schizophrenia; the voices in her head were fabulous in their dictatoriums against conventionalism, distressing in their insistency on a path leading to a glorious future. The cruel joke, of course, is that death is imminent and all of our worst suspicions are founded. The meaning we are searching for is here, in the now, and that is why we are so insistent.

Then there is the devil we know. The fear of the unknown that is greater than any known fear. Al Capone died knowingly from Syphilis, rejecting medical care due to his deathly fear of needles, instead choosing to survive to die another day with the disease he knew he had rather than deal with the thing that could kill him.

A book I read on mentality used the metaphor of fear as an imminent tsunami that nobody knows about except for you. All around you people tell you that you are crying wolf, but you can see it tower, you can feel the change in the air. You know that death is looming. And to distract yourself you abandon structure, drink yourself silly, touch people, run razor blades down your arms to feel the veins of life pulse beneath your skin. You are the sane one in this scenario. The only one who can see the tsunami of impediment denaturing human existence, the banalities drawing our attention away from the waves crashing around us. You can see the light behind it, just. And with every scrap of mental energy you have you are drawing yourself towards it.