Ruminating On: Madness

The colloquialism “Mad as a hatter” stems from antiquated haberdashery materials. Mercury was once used in the production of felt, which was then used to make hats. The mercury would seep into the skin of those who worked with it on a regular bases, namely hat makers, and the haberdashers would slowly go mad. I’ve always loved Alice in Wonderland, with it’s adoration of madness. Edgar Allan Poe, Albert Einstein, and Vincent Van Gogh were all considered crazy in their times. Some suspect Poe’s madness was a result of opium and alcohol addiction, and that Van Gogh was driven insane by the lead in his paints, but what about Einstein? Well, that gentle soul with the Neil Gaiman hair was labeled mad because his theories were ahead of their time. But, does a diagnosis of madness detract from their accomplishments? Most definitely not. More modern descents into madness have been taken by Bill Nye, Michael Jackson, and Miley Cyrus. How did Miley end up in there, well, “Wrecking Ball” is a touching ballad about laying yourself bare to your partner. Unfortunately, some say the song is sullied by a music video wherein Cyrus tongues a sledge hammer and rides construction equipment while she’s in the buff. Yet, I can’t help but notice genius in action. After the music video for “Wrecking Ball” and the MTV Music Awards segment where Cyrus ground her ass into Robin Thicke, Cyrus’s sales skyrocketed, and her face was plastered everywhere you looked. Major news outlets covered her, religious persons spoke out against her, talk show hosts screamed “INTERVENTION NEEDED!” from their comfy couches, and, all the while, Miley Cyrus laughed as she skipped off to her nearest ATM. Marketing genius is no different from scientific proficiency or literary greatness. Yes, Michael Jackson dangled his baby from a balcony, but the guy also needed Propofol to sleep. I surmise that’s because he couldn’t shut off his brain. Because that is the one thing genius and madness has in common. A person inflicted with either is constantly rummaging through the storage banks of their mind, questioning and unearthing formerly unseen possibilities. The difference between madness and genius is proof. Proof of creation, proof of theorem, proof of existence. Many think Bill Nye is crazy for speaking out against religion, for publicly stating that religious beliefs affect education. After all, what’s there to learn if you’re dead set on the idea that some omnipotent being created everything with simple will. Isn’t more exciting to believe that all this was created by a perfect storm of variables? That Earth being just far enough from the sun to keep from destroying life yet close enough to promote it is amazing? That we somehow managed to evolve from one form to another, moving from eating bananas in the jungle to connecting with others through computers? Isn’t that far more wonderful a concept than some invisible man saying, “Let there be blah, blah, blah… “? Maybe I’m crazy, but that’s the way I see it. And, while I’m no genius by any stretch of the imagination, I do strive for madness. Care to join me?