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Memories of the 28th Century

On Madness

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Irrationality may have a useful place in human activity. For one thing, it allows people to avoid depression when stuck is a hopeless situation. There seldom is a truly hopeless situation, but there are some that look like that, and dreams of something good coming along are better than stewing in the bad situation.

I didn't start writing this for that reason. In December I had an even more interesting situation that was brought back to mind when I briefly spoke with a woman who is well and thoroughly insane. I realized that she is permanently in a state of mind that I had when I was quite ill in December. I was walking along, when I I found myself lightheaded and barely able to stand. I called 911 and told the dispatcher how I was and where. An ambulance took me to a hospital, but I have no memory of that, and the next two days were fragmentary. Physically I felt O.K., even though it has been diagnosed as a heart attack, but I couldn't recognize my surroundings, and I had trouble following nurses' orders. There were times when I hallucinated, but I remembered that I was ill; I just had different explanations for what was around me. Talking with that schizo woman reminded me of my two days of being insane. The difference was that it was short term for me, and I was aware that it was caused by illness, while that woman has been like that for years, and she fundamentally believes that her irrational explanations are right.

I suspect that most of what goes though human minds is not reality. People imagine what might have been or what might be or whatever. A little while ago, I wrote emails to Russian women, and much of what we write was fantasy of some sort. One of them wrote about a dream about meeting me and going on from there, and I wrote back my imaginary idea of the same event. Those fantasies were rather harmless, and we could easily tell that they were separate from ordinary reality. But for those days when I was sick, I wasn't so sure about the difference between fact and fantasy, and for some people it is an ongoing problem.

It can be pleasant to get lost in imagination from time to time, but knowing that it is fantasy is part of what makes it pleasant. I imagine that it could be pleasant to believe one's fantasies, but it would depend on what sort they were. That woman I mentioned above imagines that the police are trying to kill her, and one of their methods is to poison food and beverage, so just opening a bottle of water is sort of unpleasant to her. One thing that keeps me from taking my paranoid fantasies seriously is that no one cares about me all that much, so they don't bother doing evil to me.

In all, there isn't much that separates people who are more or less sane from the ones who aren't. It's like writing a story. The author knows that the story is fiction that is vaguely based on reality or a vision of reality, and readers (or maybe the ideal readers) realize the same, but the readers don't necessarily know what parts were derived from actual facts, so the story may take a different meaning for different people, and some people fail to understand the story at all.

But a large part of communications involve trying to get people to believe certain fantasies. Whether one is selling consumer goods, religion, politics, or something else, it is just convincing people to believe your fantasies or ideas. A few decades ago, Bill Gates got people to believe that his inferior computers were better, and he has done well with that. And just a few years ago Donald Trump put blinders on a large part of the American public and was elected president, but he may not completely understand that his fantasies are fantasies, which is madness.

Sometimes I wish that I was as good a liar as Joseph Smith and Sidney Rigdon were or even L. Ron Hubbard. Selling a religion is profitable, but I'm not quite that dishonest, but that brings up the question of whether religiosity is a symptom of insanity or just a pleasant fantasy.

All opinions are welcome.