Monday, July 30, 2012

Philosophical Crisis/Cry For Help

What is sanity? I guess all we can use as a measure is whether or not other people would call you sane. We are a social creature and to not live up to social expectations would be to reject your status as a functioning human.

So I mean...I guess you are crazy if other people think you are.

What if you chose to reject the mentality of this society? You consciously decide to take some sort of mental high ground because you've convinced yourself that the way mainstream society thinks, believes and functions is wrong. Well, if you can find yourself in a community of like-thinkers, this is called counter culture. This is sometimes called revolution or even renaissance. If you can't find a community of like-thinkers, this is called megalomania.

Herein lies my philosophical crisis. This winter, I consciously decided to reject popular mentality and rationality. It came with a backdrop of lots of things. I was in the middle of my second month hitch hiking around South America, I was learning more about the universe than I ever thought possible, and I was reading Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. This was the only book I had with me. I read it several times and thought constantly about how much I can relate to those ideas.

The author, Robert M Pirsig has lots of cool ideas. I don't pretend to know exactly what his intentions were when writing the book but what I got out of it was this: The entire way we think, feel, relate to each other, and personally function is flawed. It's based on the philosophies of men in ancient Greece who told the western world how to rationalize. These men literally set guidelines into stone for how to think. We consumed, internalized and perpetuated these ideas so thoroughly that we convinced ourselves this is how human brains naturally work. Brains that don't work that way are crazy and brains that openly and publicly reject the way we as a culture rationalize are egomaniacs or megalomaniacs.

Pirsig was committed to a mental ward. He completely lost touch with society and received electric shock therapy which somehow altered the structure or function of his brain enough for doctors to declare him sane. He was fixed.

This happened in the 1960s. Not too terribly long ago. I know lots of people that can remember when electric shock therapy was common practice. We consider it cruel and unusual these days.

Pirsig's nervous break down, his time in a mental ward, and his diagnosis of paranoid schizophrenia and clinical depression freaks me out. The reason why is because I so strongly relate with all my heart and soul to these ideas that drove him insane.

These philosophers...the men that came up with the very basics for how to think, how to reason, how to rationalize...what sort of backdrop did they come up with this shit in? I'm not going to pretend to know very much about ancient greek history and culture...but I would be willing to bet that these men were leaders. They were politicians, they were religious figures, they were men who were wealthy enough to have the time to sit around and contemplate the "right" way to think, reason, and rationalize. Does that make their ideas suspect? To me, it kind of does.

I don't have a viable alternative to modern rationality. Maybe I've been so thoroughly steeped in the culture that utilizes this school of thought that my brain has grown around these ideas. The very way my brain is wired is based on this philosophy. Maybe it's the kind of thing that can only be undone by electric shock.

I wonder...before these Greek philosophers, these men in sheets that came up with these rules for rationality... Before we set up thousands of years of institutions that perpetuate these did people think? How did we think before the Greeks told us how to think?

Maybe the bible is a good resource for this. It's one of the very few documented compilations of human thought in western culture that existed before these Greek and Roman metropolises.

All the magic in the bible, the burning bushes and people living in whale bellies and woman growing from a man's rib...what does this say about the way people thought?

According to our modern rationality, these things couldn't have happened. They are myths. Why would people have made these things up? Were they just lying? Are they supposed to represent something I can't grasp because the way I think is so separate and different from the way the authors of the bible thought?

I know there are people around today that literally believe these things in the bible.  These things are "scientifically impossible" according to modern rationality. Maybe someone who literally believes the bible will even read this blog. I know lots of atheists that would say people who believe these things are just stupid. They would point to their "superior" school of rational thought and scoff while they think about how much smarter and better they are. How their school of thought gives them the "freedom to think for themselves".

In my opinion, this is lazy. Writing people off as stupid or crazy because you don't understand their beliefs is LAZY. This way of thinking does everything if can to swerve away from the open hearted pursuit of knowledge that all of us western thinkers who like to congratulate ourselves for being so clever and critical say that we champion.

I don't like it. I don't like the way we think. It's hypocritical. It's lazy. It's judgmental. There is no love in it. There is no opportunity for exploration of things that seem magical. It disconnects us from each other. It gives us an excuse to write off ideas, alienate and one-dimensionalize people and all the while pat ourselves on the back for being so rational and logical.  I reject it. I REJECT RATIONALITY.

The reason this concerns me is because unless I can find a community of people who agree with me...I am by definition, crazy. I am headed down the same path as Pirsig.

This blog, I guess, is a cry for help. Because I really suspect that I am not alone on this one. I suspect that there exists a community of like minded people who also reject modern rationality. We've just been so entrenched in our culture and the way we've learned to think that the thought of starting a counter culture to rationality itself is daunting and impossible. I'm not asking that we start a counter culture to rationality. In fact, perhaps that a group of people sitting down together and writing actual guidelines for how people should think was something that could have only existed in ancient greek culture. It was just the right time and the right place.

I realize that the thought of doing that...of deciding how people should think, is megalomaniacal. It's egomaniacal. The fact that these greeks dudes did it and got away with it totally blows my mind. But at the same time...if they did it, why can't others?

I guess all I want to know is this: is anyone else frustrated by rationality itself? By the very way we think? By the way we write things off as impossible and treat people like they are crazy/stupid/wrong if they think different? Am I alone on this? Am I crazy? Should I just watch TV and stop living in my head so often? Or are these things other people obsess over too?

I know these types of thoughts are extremely personal. The only reason I am able to publicly talk about them is because I have made every attempt to be so shamelessly honest about my thoughts and feelings in the last few years that sometimes it's even frightening and repulsive to the people who know me and love me the most. These are the people who will sometimes call me crazy for thinking the way I do. I don't know about y'all but when the people who love me and know me more than anyone suggest I am makes me call my sanity into question.

I'm not asking for you to agree with me or say what you think if you don't want to (if you do want to...please do!). I am asking, if you can in anyway relate to this can you please comment with something like, "word" or whatever? I need to know whether I am a revolutionary or an egomaniacal crazy person. Yes, this is a pathetic cry for support. So sue me.


  1. Word. My "am I crazy?" moment kind of pushed me in the opposite direction, but I feel ya. I guess I should finally read motorcycle maintenance and then maybe we could discuss science and the art of Hellenic maintenance. Please don't commit yourself to shock (or any other) therapy.

  2. This reminds me a lot of the holistic decision of modern Anthropology. Anthropologists studied world cultures from an etic perspective and with as relativistic morality as possible. They prided themselves on purely rational observation. It didn't work out in the end, though. Around the middle of the 20th century, anthropologists chose a more holistic approach. They utilized a rational basis, as they did in the past. In addition, though, they embraced the human nature and element in their studies. They knew that such observations could never be purely objective, since we are humans observing humans. By acknowledging this and controlling it, they came to much more valid and understanding conclusions.

    In other words, word.

  3. You are not crazy!!!!

    If you are...

    I am too.

    And I know plenty of people that are right there with you willing to hold your hand while we march down the streets and get told we're crazy together.

    I think sanity is defined by our peers, authority or our fucked up societies perspective. Wether it's the DSM IV or the propaganda fed, indoctrination of colonialism & capitalism. There are so many walls upon walls upon walls upon walls to break through.

    Western thought, systems of power and patriarchy have led us to where we are now. There's a reason why our schools look like prisons and we're bread and pushed in this society to be rewarded for being hard workers and not thinkers.

    If we question things... we are guided down softly into ways of thinking that conform with the norm and we are told that we need authority structures and good grades to succeed in life. If we don't fall into this... the systems are set up to easily throw us in jail, the loony bin or on the street.

    As for Writing people off...

    One of the biggest things I've seen in our society that is ingrained into us and accepted as ok is "Character Assassination".

    Character Assassination allows anyone to not discuss the issues but really just off people for being people or in better words... "Hypocrites". How often do you stop listening to what someone has to say because of what you think they stand for... or wear... or actions they've made in the past... "so and so is so hippocratic... hahaha". However true their hypocritical actions may be... did the discussion continue or did it end with that thought...?

    There are all these words/symbols/labels that you have already had defined in your head...

    I.E. Democrat, republican, male, female, communist, anarchist, hippy, hipster, bro, lazy, brave, Columbus, juggalo, gay, trans, police officer, occupy, ghandi, hitler, revolution, doctor, teacher, muslim, george bush, obama, christian, athiest... etc.

    For all these definitions and equations we've set in our minds for these words. We have constructed them with the help of media, society, and peers. All these definitions we have for these words are fine... but when we let our conversations drift off into these definitions, we often lose the focus of the ISSUES because we're too busy applying some sort of character assassination to a group or individual without discussing the subject correctly, further and shutting off our brain.

    It's not hard to do either especially when we're trained to be distracted easily and not even have the time to fully talk about subjects... because we're bogged down with entertainment, bullshit, work, lack of time or care to respond.

    I feel like I could right forever on this, refine & articulate points better but...

    From what I have found... the more in touch with reality you get, the more REAL history you learn, the more you'll be told you're "irrational", "insane" and "that's just not possible". All due to the systematic lack of culture, history and education most of us received growing up.


  4. Valerie, your thirst for knowledge, and by extension, meaning, is not crazy. It is very rational, and proof that you are living your life to the fullest, struggling with big questions often. If anything, yours is the type of crazy that yields genius, and then maybe hallucinations late in life.