Runs in the family, or so they say. I was even taken to evaluations and had heavy meds prescribed. Long story short: I was just an adolescent, dealing with the unfair pressure hormones induce in the child-like brain that sits on an adult body. But the sense that something was wrong in my head stuck.
As such, I’ve spent a lot of time researching and thinking of that idea: being mad. I used to have the notion that there was another imaginary me, like an imaginary friend, a dissociated parallel universe dim reflection that took all different (but not opposite) choices I made and coexisted alongside. Sort of like a manifestation not of my subconscious self, but of my true consciousness. Sometimes, I guess I would assume the role of that guy, because I was so damaged that being someone slightly different was better, not being “me” helped. I consulted that persona, and that was how I introduced myself sometimes, even to some close friends, and that’s how they got to know me.
I seldom spoke of this, because I was quite sure that people would think I was just acting for their attention (or worse, come to believe that I had lost my mind) after all, one is only declared insane after being classified as such.
Eventually, my reading habits lead me to the work of Michel Foucault, who argued that madness was a more of a social construct, a stigma different from mental illness. That felt right. It helped me to finally embrace the fact that I could be and even remain a little mad, and that there was nothing wrong about it.
There may be lots of things wrong with madness, but not with my own.
I would like to see Madness defined as a broad concept, not just my perception of it as a natural internal struggle. Just like fear, hunger or anger, it becomes a burden only when we let it take the reins for too long. But maybe is just a part of our mental processes derived from instinct! the trick is not censoring it… rather learning to be friends with it. Use it, control it. And yeah, why not? sometimes, let it control you.
And like it or not, we are all mad.
When you are unsatisfied, witness injustice and feel the need to scream, even when you know it will not solve anything… or may even upset your peers? failing to communicate a simple thought? sexual frustration? that’s madness. When you feel extremely happy and satisfied, and can’t help but fidget and jiggle or even cry, when you whistle while you walk? You guessed it: madness.
The mad person should be seen as someone who has adapted / learned to live while discarding some of the pressures normal folk need to endure: fears of punishment and consequences, rewards, needs, materialism… that makes them in a sense, more truly free.
There’s a fascinating character from Irish mythology, a male fairy called “Amadan ‘na Briona” (or “Amadan na Bruidne”) who is represented as a mad, dark jester of sorts. In some stories, he leads the wild hunt. He is the king of hunters, because he lost all fear, he does not depend of Titania or Oberon’s control. He asks no one for permission, takes what he needs and both enjoys or suffers it to its full extension.
We all should learn more from madmen. Madness is not the absence of fear, decency or sense, rather an expression of release of our consciousness from their cages.
Have you ever spent days and days making up flavors of ice cream that no one’s ever eaten before? Like chicken and telephone ice cream?…Green mouse ice cream was the worst. I didn’t like that at all.
I know I might be reading too much into this, and that the only “canon” comes from Neil Gaiman… but I find it fun to speculate and try to understand (or at least have some sort of solid theory) on how Delight of the Endless became Delirium (my favorite character).
It’s worth noticing how Death and Destruction seem particularly protective and fond of Delirium, while she seems to avoid, even fear the serious gravitas of Dream to the point she avoids being close to him. This may be because some dreams (the event) deal with memories, or possibilities derived from the paths that were not taken.
I had read that she might have transformed as an act of psychological maturity, an unavoidable consequence of being in some sense an avatar of naïveté or innocence… I rather think it occurred from some sort of trauma.
Far beyond the obvious disappointment, there’s nothing that opens your eyes and makes you face the truths you had chosen to ignore as forcefully as an event like an unkempt engagement, a broken heart… after she (or the universe, or both) is forced to lose her right to be delighted, the only way that an innocent copes with the world after it crumbles is to taste, and maybe eventually embrace, madness.
The alternative would have been to die, which is the option Dream chooses when faced with a similar need to change his own essential nature. I guess we can all understand how it can be better to live with madness than to cease to be.
yet I digress – there is a beauty in the mystery of her change. Let’s hope Gaiman never reveals the event. It would most certainly break my heart.
(originally posted on 2015)