If you check out the first few returns for a Google search on sanity you’ll find definitions setting a standard that most people – if they were really honest with themselves – wouldn’t meet. [That includes me.]
Wikipedia begins like this:
“Sanity (from Latin: sānitās) refers to the soundness, rationality and healthiness of the human mind, as opposed to insanity. A person is not considered sane anymore just if he/she is rational. In modern society, the terms have become exclusively synonymous with compos mentis (Latin: compos, having mastery of, and mentis, mind), in contrast with non compos mentis, or insane, meaning troubled conscience. A sane mind is nowadays considered healthy both from its analytical -once called rational– and emotional aspects. Furthermore, according to Chesterton, sanity involves wholeness, whereas insanity implies narrowness and brokenness.”
My emotional mind is completely wasted. Like drunk, like improperly utilised, like dead, like anything “unsound”. But I have what I like to think is a decent grasp of some analytical and rational processes. Rationality tells me an amount of uncertainty is probably necessary for humans, given the physical limits of our mental experience. I mean I can analyse my way out of a bad place, but I can’t always stop myself from getting into a bad place. So I’m not strictly speaking sane, but I’m not strictly speaking insane either.
I can work out that the world is not arranged ideally or perfectly, not yet anyway. The only sense in which the current state of affairs is perfect is the sense in which it promises perfection, in other words: supposing that the world is developing into an inevitably perfect state. While that would entail a sort of perfection, the process of reaching a more complete perfection would necessitate our not already being perfect.
Enough with the “perfection” already.
The point is, we probably don’t need to be sane.
My rational mind does the best that it can, which is truly impressive given the sharknado my emotional self forms at regular intervals. However, this is insufficient – according to a lot of these definitions – to properly declare myself sane. “I tried real hard” doesn’t make the cut.
But I suspect that I’m not alone in this sort of experience. I suspect that many, if not all of us, suffer from excessive emotional instability. Why? Again, because the world is not perfect, and nor is society. We people, we citizens, don’t have any reason to be permanently emotionally fulfilled. Emotional fulfillment, unless based on lies and therefore vulnerable to the revelation of truth, is a temporary thing. It helps to give the human and probably the animal a more substantial and driving sense of purpose. But it does not give us sanity. Not permanence, not absolute stability.
You can put sanity on a scale and then we all have a bit of it. That seems much more egalitarian than the paradoxical black and white of complete instability versus complete stability. We are human. We are neither entirely chaotic nor entirely ordered. We’re in a state of constant change and flux. We do as well as we can.
I reach a point here where I wonder whether trying to put on that semblance of total sanity is really worth it. Wouldn’t it be better if we all exhibited a tempered level of insanity? Or at least if we stopped pretending that our bullshit is sane while someone’s else’s bullshit is insane? We’re all a bit of both.
I’m not sure what the upshot of this would be. Primarily less worrying. If – in your own mind – you’re less concerned about other people around you being incomprehensibly strange, nor are you worried about them seeing you as the same, then maybe you feel better about the world. This is assuming you agree that other folks are ultimately like you. Not so much in the details, but in certain core motivations that effect everything they do. Plus some fundamental details that are pretty easy to understand and compare.
Motivations: set 1. survival types, eating, drinking, sleeping, keeping away from danger; set 2. seeking happiness, pursuing one’s purpose, drinking a lot, eating a lot of chocolate or whatever, having a family, protecting loved ones; set 3. seeking knowledge and absolute perfection, completeness, the fulfillment of purpose.
Details: well, the almost universal appreciation of some sort of alcohol, some sort of chocolate, some sort of caffeine, a kind of exercise, a kind of clothing style, music genre(s), the big and clear ways in which a lot of people pursue their basic motivations.
You might be a teetotaler, but if you pushed yourself maybe you could still understand the alcoholic falling out of the bar and singing “Death Letter”, because maybe you like blues too, and maybe when you feel sad you run 8 miles instead of drinking 8 pints, or you spend 8 hours on tv shows or video games. You know their feelings, you know the need for a consuming, even dominating distraction from sadness and fear.
Everyone, given the time and comfort to think, can work out how everyone else feels and why.
We’re all in the dubious space between sanity and insanity. We’re all here together, someone dancing on the bar, someone doing tequila shots, someone reading in the corner, someone smoking outside, someone doing coke in the toilet. I mean it doesn’t have to be as sinister as that but I’ve always thought of a bar as quite a homely place so it’s a first port of call for this sort of metaphor.
We, humans, are not going to be perfect for a very long time. We won’t even be humans when we’re done. Humans are by definition not perfect. By definition, not sane. We’re a brilliant species but we don’t have to be everything. We don’t have to pretend that we have it all. We don’t. We have a lot of good stuff, but there’s always more to get. And that’s not a problem. That’s not a failing. It’s just the universe, God if you like, unraveling itself or its plan. [seriously yo, religious or not: that works]
So with sanity, you really can’t expect to be in logician-HAL-chessmaster mode all the time. We’ll go off on tangents, we’ll struggle to maintain composure when someone farts. We’ll get coffee and smoke and drink, even when we shouldn’t, because it feels like we need it, and sometimes feeling just overcomes you. You don’t have to like it, maybe you actually shouldn’t like it. But fuck it’s what your body does and you have to deal with it even as it’s changing you. And that’s not going to go away for anyone until we evolve out of it or die. Until then, it’s the animal side of us saying “remember where you came from – it’s not that long ago you left there”. And damn right it should make us remember. It’s still there. It’s not gone until it’s gone.
Now I just wanted to make myself feel a bit better about the madness in my life at the moment, but the only way I can really do that is if I put a hand out to whoever you are, offer to buy you a pint and talk about the details on your own journey through things too. Writing around the houses, that’s the first step in the process. Maybe you’ll read this and have a good chuckle. Linking a really good selection of Fightclub quotes put out by the Minimalists blog, that’s somewhere in the process as well. I mean at least it gets you thinking. [as though you’ve not already seen that film 20 times, still the quotes do deserve some serious time on their own. The book is good too, if a tad depressing.]