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September 11, 2008

go ahead. be insane.

Supposedly, there is such a concept that exists which a person can be in a state of sanity or insanity. It is obvious, since the word “sane” is in the dictionary, that this word is a definitive idea, right? The dictionary definition of ‘sane’ is “free from mental derangement; having a sound, healthy mind.” Some of the assumed “sanest” people on earth bear a picture in their minds of the ideal image of “sanity”. Yet, who is to know who has reached the point of sanity, and who has not? Is sanity even a point to reached? An action? A persona? What is the concept of having or not having “a sound, healthy mind”?

Among many writers who have been considered on the brink of insanity is Emily Dickinson. A woman who lived in the 1800’s, she did not choose to live the typical life compared to women of that day. She was a starkingly unique writer, as well. She challenged traditional customs and introduced her readers to her world, full of intriguing ideas of religion, madness, and especially, death. It is often said of her that she did not leave her doorstep for years at a time.

Thomas Higginson, a well-known literary critic and one of Dickinson’s close friends, said of her, “I never was with anyone who drained my nerve power so much...without touching her, she drew from me. I am glad not to live near her." He also used the word “insane” to describe her. She was certainly different. She was even labyrinthine enough to discuss in class, critic, and learn from a century after her death. What sane person can say that about his or her self?

In Genesis 22 is a story that brings up the ever-familiar question, “Is he crazy?” In this story, God abruptly commands Abraham to slaughter and burn his only son to death on a mountain as a burnt offering. And what does Abraham do? He takes his son on the mountain and binds him! It takes an angel of the Lord to shout Abraham’s name for him to stop the process of sacrifice. He treats the sacrifice of his son as if he were a simple ram, for the sake of God’s desire. How abnormal and insane. Any person passing them on that mountain would have probably given them very odd gestures. If Abraham told the passing person that God told him to sacrifice his son, the looks would be even more freaked-out. In the end, God spared his son and everything was okay. Insane, but okay.

Many would say that skydiving is insane because the risk exists that the parachute will not release. But how about driving a car? Driving is an everyday action; it is something anyone does if they can afford the means. Those who drive risk their lives every time they sit behind the wheel. One can die so easily when pulling out of his or her driveway. So, is skydiving really that insane of a choice?

Insane people murder, neglect social responsibility, and commit suicide. But those who are perceivably sane can do this, too. Are we all out of our minds? That is the question. Being of sound mind is not always the answer to living a life worth living. That is for sure. As one may infer from the life of Emily Dickinson and Abraham, from those who skydive or those who drive on a street, insanity does not always have to carry a negative connotation. What is sanity and insanity is in the eye of the beholder. So, go ahead. Go down in history. Be insane.

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