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A Lucilius Parable: A Day's Work - Part II
July 6th, 2020
If someone is mad, does that mean they’ve gone mad?
With all due respect and intended courtesy to those with mental capacities deemed abnormal, the connection here between being mad and having gone mad, is not intended to offend but to examine the linguistic similarity and explore what it means to make good decisions.
It’s a matter of fact that society restricts the possible actions of those with mental disabilities and abnormalities. The most prevalent restriction is probably a driver’s license. The ability to drive has a further restriction on everyone when mind altering substances are involved, such as alcohol. We don’t trust people to make good vehicular decisions while drinking for good reason: people become quite bad at driving. It would be interesting to see how other mental states affect people while driving. For example: should it be illegal to drive a car while very angry? Perhaps so, considering people have their mental capabilities greatly altered while in a state of anger. No one is without a lingering regret over how they acted while angry at some point in the past. We all fall victim to the poor choices made while mad. Apparently in Germany a hangover is considered a temporary disease. Perhaps the mental state of rage could be considered as a temporary mental illness.
Sanity is the ability to stay calm.
In fact, it may be permissible to argue that any emotion, if ratcheted to a sufficient degree of intensity might be classified as a kind of temporary illness of the mind, a touch of insanity. Brain studies reveal striking similarities between people who are newly in love and the signatures of a manic episode for an individual suffering from bipolar disorder.
Shakespeare pointed this out a little while ago, from As You Like It, he speaks through the character of Rosalind:
Love is merely a madness, and, I tell you, deserves as well a dark house and a whip as madmen do; and the reason why they are not so punish’d and cured is, that the lunacy is so ordinary that the whippers are in love too.
Shakespeare is probably angling for humor here, but it’s oddly appropriate that neuroscience has unearthed some truth in his observation. Dare we go so far to say that those experiencing the very highest heights of love shouldn’t drive a car? Perhaps, but then we’re also leaning towards Huxley’s Brave New World, where all variance in emotional experience is hoovered out of the human population.
The trained ability to peacefully face a maddening situation, or any emotionally intense situation is really the only way to seeing next steps that have a chance of being effective. Anger and rage, jealousy and envy, embarrassment and shame – none of these are the source nor inspiration of ideas that move our lives forward. The perverse decisions that can grow from these emotions certainly make for a more interesting life similar to the drama of movies and television, but this is likely not the sort of ideal that many of us would like to shoot for.
Do we improve our life and the lives of those around us when we act while angry?
Would you trust someone who’s gone mad to make good decisions?
Would you trust someone who is mad to make good decisions?