When we think of “madness,” unless we have some real experience in psychiatry or psychology, early mental associations are likely to involve people behaving well outside of established norms, and who engage in “eccentricities,” erratic ideas and actions, and unpredictably, endangering themselves and others.

In our own day and age, we’re immersed in information bubbles that make it difficult to clearly distinguish what a person’s mental health consists of, nor when we’ve entered into madness.

In this small article, we won’t refer to madness as a specific pathology – forms of psychic suffering that provoke depression, dissociation from reality or aggressive behaviors, and which we don’t encourage. But we take madness in its broadest sense, as a provocation toward lateral thinking and unexpected actions.

We oscillate between a voluntary rationality and an irrationalism that we attribute to others: the other – the dangerous one. This one is always the one that presents us with dangerous behaviors, and it’s always this one who incurs the error. The self – that part of ourselves that identifies with us – the ego that defends itself against any idea or attempt to divide it or to cause it to change its opinion – is a fragile construction. Today, it’s based on consumption habits and virtual elections.

The information of which these selves are composed – memories, friends, identification characters – is as illusory as our names. It can be erased, stolen, and modified at will by the technocrats. If rationality and “normality” are to be used, we won’t see the rise of the new demagogues, the politicians and the sellers of (false) hopes that foment fear and xenophobia for electoral purposes. Practicing a peaceful form of madness in the face of the world can save us from perishing in the swirls of normality, consumption and the fear of others.

alice-tenniel

Take the following data as an example. Psychology professor, David Levitin states that, in 1976, a store had an inventory of approximately 9,000 different products. Today, it’s reached 40,000 products. If we buy, on average, some 150 products in each of our shopping carts, how do we manage to ignore the tens of thousands of brands, logos, and empty promises that cross our commercial lives?

More information is produced, per minute, today than ever before in human history. Social networks have become a perverse version of the internet (an encyclopedia we expected in the late 1990s). It’s a chamber of echoes in which we hear, again and again, the opinions and the news that we’ve already accepted. We’re safeguarded in the assurance that no dangerous ideas – those that might potentially change our lives – will ever land before our eyes.

According to MIT neurologist, Earl Miller, our brains aren’t even programmed to perform their famed “multitasking.” “When people think they’re multitasking, they’re actually just switching from one task to another very rapidly. And every time they do, there’s a cognitive cost in doing so.”

What is this cost? The production of cortisone, the stress hormone, in addition to high doses of adrenaline – makes for a stress cocktail apparent in any populous city.

The madness we propose in the face of hyper-connectivity is a reminder that the internet, social networks, and electronic devices are really just tools. Not unlike a fork, or a cup, or a glass for serving water. Objects and services have become the masters and the lords of our time, and that seem to control us through the administration of information, our personal relationships and our ways of life. But the power has always been in ourselves: we don’t say that we must renounce the forms of relationships proper to our own historical moment, but we must participate in this tide of information with full awareness.

As Jiddu Krishnamurti asked in the 1970s, “How to live in this world without belonging to it, that is the question. How to live in this insanity and yet be sane?” One possible answer is this: take a compassionate distance from the world, act in it without belonging to it, don’t be devoured by it, live in time without letting it consume us, as in an eternal moment, with a clear awareness that all of this, too, will pass.

 

*Image: illustration by John Tenniel (1865) – Public Domain

When we think of “madness,” unless we have some real experience in psychiatry or psychology, early mental associations are likely to involve people behaving well outside of established norms, and who engage in “eccentricities,” erratic ideas and actions, and unpredictably, endangering themselves and others.

In our own day and age, we’re immersed in information bubbles that make it difficult to clearly distinguish what a person’s mental health consists of, nor when we’ve entered into madness.

In this small article, we won’t refer to madness as a specific pathology – forms of psychic suffering that provoke depression, dissociation from reality or aggressive behaviors, and which we don’t encourage. But we take madness in its broadest sense, as a provocation toward lateral thinking and unexpected actions.

We oscillate between a voluntary rationality and an irrationalism that we attribute to others: the other – the dangerous one. This one is always the one that presents us with dangerous behaviors, and it’s always this one who incurs the error. The self – that part of ourselves that identifies with us – the ego that defends itself against any idea or attempt to divide it or to cause it to change its opinion – is a fragile construction. Today, it’s based on consumption habits and virtual elections.

The information of which these selves are composed – memories, friends, identification characters – is as illusory as our names. It can be erased, stolen, and modified at will by the technocrats. If rationality and “normality” are to be used, we won’t see the rise of the new demagogues, the politicians and the sellers of (false) hopes that foment fear and xenophobia for electoral purposes. Practicing a peaceful form of madness in the face of the world can save us from perishing in the swirls of normality, consumption and the fear of others.

alice-tenniel

Take the following data as an example. Psychology professor, David Levitin states that, in 1976, a store had an inventory of approximately 9,000 different products. Today, it’s reached 40,000 products. If we buy, on average, some 150 products in each of our shopping carts, how do we manage to ignore the tens of thousands of brands, logos, and empty promises that cross our commercial lives?

More information is produced, per minute, today than ever before in human history. Social networks have become a perverse version of the internet (an encyclopedia we expected in the late 1990s). It’s a chamber of echoes in which we hear, again and again, the opinions and the news that we’ve already accepted. We’re safeguarded in the assurance that no dangerous ideas – those that might potentially change our lives – will ever land before our eyes.

According to MIT neurologist, Earl Miller, our brains aren’t even programmed to perform their famed “multitasking.” “When people think they’re multitasking, they’re actually just switching from one task to another very rapidly. And every time they do, there’s a cognitive cost in doing so.”

What is this cost? The production of cortisone, the stress hormone, in addition to high doses of adrenaline – makes for a stress cocktail apparent in any populous city.

The madness we propose in the face of hyper-connectivity is a reminder that the internet, social networks, and electronic devices are really just tools. Not unlike a fork, or a cup, or a glass for serving water. Objects and services have become the masters and the lords of our time, and that seem to control us through the administration of information, our personal relationships and our ways of life. But the power has always been in ourselves: we don’t say that we must renounce the forms of relationships proper to our own historical moment, but we must participate in this tide of information with full awareness.

As Jiddu Krishnamurti asked in the 1970s, “How to live in this world without belonging to it, that is the question. How to live in this insanity and yet be sane?” One possible answer is this: take a compassionate distance from the world, act in it without belonging to it, don’t be devoured by it, live in time without letting it consume us, as in an eternal moment, with a clear awareness that all of this, too, will pass.

 

*Image: illustration by John Tenniel (1865) – Public Domain

Tagged: , , , ,