The Almost Daily Quote - Jan. 2 to 26, 2007

Almost Daily Quotes for Feb. 8–28, 2007

Being human = Being nuts

My husband and I have a friend who is smart, competent, responsible, affluent, organized, sociable, and a bit nuts. More than a bit but he functions well in the world. He has an excellent job which demands a high degree of training and talent and an ability to deal with people and with numbers and money. He is the sort of person who tends to command respect. He makes decisions daily that affect the ability of people to do what they want to do in life. He has some power, more power than many people do.

Just the other day this intelligent man told my husband that he was being tempted to damage his relationship with his girlfriend by circumstances that I won't reveal here other than to say that the circumstances that he described were not possible. He had created a fantasy to explain behavior that he was tempted to do. Rather than take responsibility for feelings, thoughts and behavior that would hurt the relationship, he was putting the blame on something else that exists only in his mind.

Privately, without telling him, we both were encouraged that he was admitting that his thoughts and behavior had more to do with him than with his girlfriend. Usually he would blame the girlfriend for his behavior. This time he seemed to be aware that there was another explanation for his behavior, that it wasn't his girlfriend's fault. This seemed to be progress. He has been in a pattern of doing things that make it difficult for him to be in a relationship but he rarely has shown any consciousness that he does anything to contribute to the failures. So admitting even a fantastical explanation for his behavior is better than putting the blame on the woman. Progress!

I apologize for not being specific about the details of his explanation. The details don't matter. Please believe that there is no reality behind his explanation. It is similar to something like the Irish elves make him do it. And he isn't even Irish! No, it isn't Irish elves. Nor is it the Loch Ness monster. But it is something along those lines. Something quite implausible. Yet this man walks among us daily and makes decisions that affect people's lives! Perhaps even your life! We have dinner and lunch with him. We've spent holidays together. But he is a bit nuts. Which brings me to my premise which I have presented once before in my online journal: the premise that just the fact of being human means that we are all a little nuts on a range from just a little tiny bit nuts to whacked-out-beyond-belief-lunatic nuts. My husband and I were encouraged by his admitting that it wasn't his girlfriend's fault but then we realized that there is a strong chance that he actually believes that the fantastical explanation is a reality. If he does, then he is a candidate for antipsychotic medication.

Another human being who is exhibiting the amazing range of competence and insanity that humans can experience is astronaut Lisa Nowak who is in the news this week charged with attempting to kidnap and murder another woman who she saw as a romantic rival. How many tests was Lisa Nowak required to take in her journey to become an astronaut? How hard must that have been to go through training to travel into space? How rock solid do we expect someone to be who qualifies to be an astronaut? As professions go, I would expect that astronauts would be among those who are scrutinized close up for signs of mental breakdown under stress. Someone can't break down in space where so much else, so many lives, so much hope, so much money is riding on them. Yet this accomplished astronaut donned adult diapers so that she could drive to Orlando, Florida without having to take a pee break so that she could accost a woman in an airport and get arrested for attempted kidnapping and murder?

How did the possibility of Lisa Nowak's lapse into criminal behavior slip by the Navy prodders and testers and trainers? Was it the stress of life that pushed her over the edge? Was life on earth harder to cope with than traveling in space ships? Is she like our friend who blames his thoughts and behavior on mystical beings? She functioned well and then one day it was all too much and the craziness became visible in an airport parking lot when she tapped on a woman's window and sprayed pepper spray in the woman's eyes. Is this something that any of us could do under the right set of stresses and circumstances?

Is it human to be crazy? Is it part of the package? How do we convince someone else that what they are thinking and feeling isn't connected to real reality? Could anyone have talked Lisa Nowak out of her trip to Florida?

I know that our friend seems to set out on deliberately sabotaging each of his own relationships with his fantasies and that arguing him out of his fantasies is useless. He is not the only person we know well who is like this nor is that the only thing that he does that makes him seem a little crazy. He is the example I chose today to illustrate my premise that we are all a little crazy and some of us are crazier than others. I know others who are convinced of various things that have nothing to do with reality.

Once upon a time back when I thought that logic always prevailed in the world I would react to weird explanations and beliefs by trying to argue people out of them. I've experienced what it was like to live with someone who had illusions and fantasies about the world. When I was younger I thought that the rest of the world was where sanity lived and that it was only in my own home where there were people who believed and did crazy things. Now I realize that the rest of the world is not that much different from the crazy world of my own home, that even people with a tremendous veneer of sanity have a share of insanity too and they still function, sometimes very well. Everyone is capable of a little insanity and also a little blindness when it comes to their own ability to be insane. On more than one occasion my husband and I have been amused to hear people with distinct emotional peculiarities disparage others who also have distinct emotional peculiarities for their peculiarities. In other words frequently we hear pots call kettles black.

I felt compelled to write this essay today after hearing our friend's explanation of why he was thinking of doing something that would hurt his relationship. What is the point of my including this story here? The point is that many of us look for some sanity in our lives, some reassurance that there is such a thing as sanity, that logic will prevail, that good will triumph, that the world is not heading for entropy but for something better, not something worse. And then in life we experience things that feel like the opposite of all that. Bad appears to triumph. Sanity doesn't seem to prevail. There appears to be no logic. We look for pretty pictures more so than the darker ones. Yet we all do have a dark side.

Even the best of us most likely have a dark side. (I can't say that with 100% surety since I don't know that for sure.) The way to deal with the dark side, the illogical side, the side that misinterprets reality is to become aware of it in ourselves and in others. To become aware of it, to forgive it as much as possible as part of being human, and to cope with it as best we can. If we are all normal and yet we are all a bit crazy, then perhaps, we might be more forgiving of ourselves and everyone else once we accept that craziness is part of the package called normal. That can be a hard premise to accept but I think it's the way that things are.


PS. When I looked up a link to include for information on Lisa Nowak, I was surprised to learn that we have shared a surname. Not the one she has now but an earlier one.


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