March 02, 2006


After my grandmother died last week, I've had ample reason to consider what it means to be crazy. See, she and my mother didn't talk for 40 years, not even when my grandmother knew she was dying would she break down that wall. One of my sisters is angry with me for being sad about the death of someone who wouldn't talk to them, the other one as much as told me that these intergenerational insanities and the future-perfect promises of our family's chosen church were why she didn't want kids before paradise, and my mom thought that this was a good opportunity to remind me of their doctrinal promise that we could soon see all of our dead loved ones again in the flesh (including my long-departed dad) and attempt a soft-voiced, hard-sell conversion. The branch of my family that was close to my grandmother still want nothing to do with my immediate family and are trying to act as if everything were going on as normal.

It's a veritable smorgasbord of crazy. All of us, really, god ... there have been many times this week when I've wondered if I'm not rubber room material by virtue of either association or some craziness of my own that I don't yet have perspective on.

So this afternoon, I'm wondering, what does it mean to be crazy? Everybody throws this word around, guilty here, to describe all kinds of dysfunction. But it seems to come down to two categories: difficulty taking in data and difficulty 'handling' it. These are, of course, very different things.

I know an employee (very short) at a metaphysical bookstore in California who was punched in the face by an angry (large and robust) ex-military type guy who came in to shout at the owner (short and slight) and tell them all that they were going to hell. The punchee not only didn't think to call the police, because this sort of harassment at the shop is a regular occurrence (minus the getting punched), because the owner has been on the verge of not handling the repeated incidents well for a while now and shouldn't be made to dwell on it, and really, there wasn't even a bruise. I know that the coworker (smallish) of a friend of mine was beaten and raped by his (much larger and taller) 'girlfriend', but was ashamed, thinks that no one will ever love him again and gets twitchy around members of the opposite sex, just like the typical female abuse victim (which is one reason why, to the clueless in the audience, you shouldn't ever have mixed gender domestic violence shelters.) It isn't that they don't know what's happened to them, it's that they're not responding to it in what I would consider a rational manner (from behind my safe, cozy computer desk), not that I blame them.

In those and similar cases, I think that crazy might just be a poorly considered synonym for heartbroken.

When you get to people believing that God is going to physically bring their dead relatives back to life sometime before I'm slated to be eligible for Social Security, this seems to me to be in the same boat as believing that global warming is fictional, that divine voices have told you to kill somebody, that the answer to the WWJD question is 'intimidate and punch people of different faiths,' that Bush didn't break the wiretapping laws, or that there's a spirit in the sky that considers 72 nubile companions an appropriate reward for murdering innocent people. These beliefs vary widely in the type and scope of damage done, from practically harmless to downright unspeakable, but they represent a failure to look at the world and accurately interpret the data that is coming into your head.

Life is frequently filled with unpleasant circumstances, intolerable choices and enough petty irritations to try the patience of saints. Which is why the idea of sainthood is such a big deal, I guess. Not because it's easy to cope with things, or because the problems aren't *really* there, but because sometimes people can still see the good, the important, and take some action that affirms the value of putting up with all this crap so it can be made less crappy. Because you have to accept what's going on if you want to help fix it, even if you have a hard time tolerating the suckiness of It All.

And with that, I conclude my general remarks on the subject of being crazy. I don't know if I've figured anything out, but that was therapeutic. Thank you for listening. So now, here are some links to stories and posts you should know about if you didn't already, which may also generate continued ponderance on craziness, albeit indirectly. Mostly. So enjoy.

AmericaBlog: President Bush is on video, being told about possible levee failures before Katrina hit New Orleans, before telling the public that no one could have imagined large scale levee failures. A 2002 report indicated that the UAE government had been infiltrated by Al Qaida. A Missouri town that thinks it's appropriate to make laws about how many biologically unrelated/unmarried people can live together. Not only is the human rights situation in Iraq as bad as it was under Saddam, there is no longer any given set of behaviors that offer a reasonable expectation of safety.

Sojourners: Budgets are moral documents. When people think that death is an appropriate penalty for unsanctioned sex, it can extend even to their own families, whether they want to think of it that way or not.

Nukes: India, okay; Iran, not so much.

Potential epidemics: Confirmed human avian flu deaths in Iraq and Indonesia, confirmed bird deaths from this flu all over the damn place.

Oh, for crying out loud: Masked Kenyan police officers raided media offices in the midst of a budding corruption scandal. Israel will try a new strategy of using an "iron fist," which is different from their previous policies because ... help me out, here. Private cars banned for a day in Baghdad by officials desperate to stem the violence following the mosque bombing a few days ago.

Juan Cole: Yes, Iraq really is that bad. Also, where terrorists come from and why we can't control everything that happens in the world, because some people still really don't get it.

News Blog: The soldiers want out right frakking now. Yes, Virginia, there really is a healthcare crisis. The GOP's main backers may have dispensed with the white sheets, but they're actively opposed to promoting racial equality. Failure of command looks the same in just about every era, though the Bush administration seems determined to prove it with very nearly every major decision.

Alas, A Blog: Thanks to the usual cornucopia of good feminist links, I got several pointers to stimulating discussions. Including the Biting Beaver discussing women who cooperate with the patriarchy and why rape is the logical outcome of our gender-power dynamic.

I Blame The Patriarchy: People who deserve poison toads in the face. That would be in addition to judges who think that contempt of court includes refusing to watch video of your own gang rape.

Pandagon: Though fortunately, the judge mentioned in that last item has reconsidered his position. The Utah legislature the incest exception for parental notification before minors can get abortions. The strawfeminist argument about sex-selective abortion in India.

Crooks & Liars: The government can't monitor port security worth a load of chicken beaks, but they're keeping an eye on those sneaky Quakers. Scalito sends James Dobson a 'thank you' letter and believe me, I only wish that was a link to a satire piece.

Rude Pundit: For the very, very slow, no, liberals aren't 'happy' about the prospect of civil war in Iraq. Katrina was just another example of Bush's property before life ethos, if you can call it that.

Mother I made it up from the bruise of a floor of this prison
Mother I lost it, all of the fear of the lord I was given
Mother forget me now that the creek drank the cradle you sang to
Mother forgive me, I sold your car for the shoes that I gave you

So may the sunrise bring hope where it once was forgotten
sons can be birds taken broken up to the mountain

- "Upward Over The Mountain" from The Creek Drank The Cradle by Iron & Wine

Posted by natasha at March 2, 2006 02:03 PM | Recommended Reading | Technorati links |

You reminded me of a saying I heard a long time ago.

It's crazy to be normal.
It's normal to be crazy.

Read any Swedenborg lately?

Profanations are of many kinds. The most grievous kind is when one acknowledges and lives according to the truths and goods of the Word, of the church, and of worship, and afterward denies them and lives contrary to them, or even lives contrary to them and does not deny them. Such profanation effects a conjunction and coherence of good with falsity, and of truth with evil, and from this it comes to pass that man is at the same time in heaven and in hell; consequently, when heaven wills to have its own, and hell wills to have its own, and yet they cohere, they are both swept away, and thus the proper human life perishes, and the man becomes like a brute animal, continually delirious, and carried hither and thither by fantasy like a dragon in the air, and in his fantasy shreds and specks appear like giants and crowds, and a little platter like the universe; and so on.
Sounds like shrub... Posted by: Allison at March 5, 2006 11:30 AM