Sometimes I’m tempted to focus on Shakespeare alone in this blog. His work offers us more wisdom than I’ve found anywhere else, if one has the courage and discipline to explore it. As I’ve argued recently, I think his work reveals that he thought that madness inflicted the whole of this human endeavor and that even the “consensually validated reality,” if closely examined reveals this to be true. Freud probably had this in mind with his book entitled, “The Psychopathology of Everyday Life
One line from the play, “Hamlet” that has always intrigued me on this subject is, “What’s mad but to be nothing else but mad?” Shakespeare was telling us, “We are all ‘mad’ but the label ‘madness’ belongs only to those who are ‘nothing else but mad.’” Yes, everyday life is “psycho-pathological” but to waste much time and energy calling it that is kind of, well, kind of “nuts.” Labels like “psycho-pathological” or “mad” must be reserved for those who go beyond the pale of everyday insanity and illustrates for us what is really going on with our daily grind of “consensually validated reality.”
But there is a continuum to this madness that we are all inflicted with by virtue of being “mere” humans. There are occasionally people, even prominent people, who come along and illustrate for us madness though manage to avoid institutionalization and possibly even become powerful political leaders. In my lifetime I can think of people like Idi Amin, Sadam Hussein, and their predecessors, Hitler and Mussolini. And, you guessed it, there’s Donald Trump. Though Donald Trump was “freely” elected in a democracy, his election proves the speciousness of any notion of “free will.” Trump is a good example of someone who Shakespeare would describe as mad but he would also note that with him there is definitely “something other” than mad, meaning he really doesn’t deserve the label “mad,” but he sure comes close to it! He is pretty far down on the spectrum toward madness but he lives in a culture that has found what he offers valuable enough that they are willing to overlook words and deeds that would disqualify most people from the White House and from the entitlement of the word “sane.”
It would be so helpful if my country would use this moment in its history for self-reflection and consider the wisdom that Shakespeare offers us here. If we were mentally healthy as a culture we could contemplate our “madness” as Shakespeare challenged us to do and not be daunted by the task, realizing that to contemplate the notion does not make us “mad.” For, most of us in this exploration would learn to chuckle, or even guffaw at things we began to discover about ourselves, quirks and oddities which reveal merely the conflicted nature of human experience and do not mean that we are mad. But one dimension of the human ego which can tyrannize one into madness is the fear of having any flaw, and of having any flaw coming to the light of the day. That fear often drives us not acknowledge our conflicts even if this lack of acknowledgement causes these conflicts to worsen to the point of mental illness or even to the point of validating one who is mentally ill and electing him President of the United States.
Two other blogs of mine are listed here which I invited you to check out: