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Why does the world seem to be
completely insane?

Yes, it always appears that you are in a minority of sane people (or perhaps you are the ONLY sane person) in a sea of completely confused crackpots. The reason that so many other people seem completely confused and wrongheaded is that they use different symbols and metaphors to view the world. It is impossible to discuss important issues such as politics, families, violence, justice, etc. without resorting to symbolism. Anything that does not directly refer to something that can be physically sensed, such as justice or one's concept of God must be referred to by metaphor and symbol. If you and another use different symbols, you will be unable to communicate effectively. Some of the main metaphors in use today are:
  • Conventional religion
  • Science
  • Power, that is, dominance and submission
  • Artistic and aesthetic worth
  • Traditional political categories
  • Material wealth and security
  • Romanticism and relationships
  • Honor, valor, and courage
  • Bigotry, racism, and exclusivity
  • Depth psychology (Freud, Jung, etc.)
  • Humanism and "new age" psychology
  • Traditional philosophy

Chances are that your views and beliefs about the world center around one or several of these metaphors. For example, if you see the world in terms of moral worth and submission to a higher law, you are conventionally religious. If you see the world in terms of cause and effect and experimenting to find the right solutions, you are oriented toward science.

People who share one or more basic metaphors will find that they can communicate effectively with one another and work together constructively. People who do not share any metaphors will usually be unable to regard one another with anything beyond fear, hostility, and contempt. Because of this lack of communication between groups, most discussions of important issues in the public arena quickly degenerate into grandstanding and name calling, because in the absence of real understanding between the disagreeing parties, only mob psychology is left to sway public opinion.

In all of this you may be left frustrated and unable to act, because you have not yet realized that:

The World Doesn't Want to be Saved.

The world is a teeming mishmash of cultures with a bewildering array of values and ideologies engaged in their own version of the good life. People are generally not interested in changing the metaphors through which they view the world, so real understanding between groups with conflicting viewpoints is not achievable in the short term. The good news is, that's OK, because the world isn't supposed to be saved on a global scale. It must be saved at the level of the individual. And despite the fact that the level of the individual appears to be statistically insignificant, it is in fact the most significant, because it is only at the level of the individual that a creative synthesis of conflicting metaphors can occur. Once a connection is made at the individual level, the process of spreading successful new metaphors throughout society is essential automatic if the society is ready for them. If the society is not ready, the new metaphors will not be accepted under any circumstances. So don't beat you head on a rock. Solve your own interpersonal communication problems. If the world is ready to benefit from your solutions, you will not be able to stop it from using them.

The Utility of Insanity

two examples:

Be aware that the term insanity refers to a social condition, not a medical malady. Insanity can be described as the inability to function under, or be bound by, the mores, or standards of human behavior and knowledge.

First example.... me

I tend to be an extremist, in anything I do. One manifestation of that extremism was my multi-year canoe voyage, which was designed to test if I could survive and thrive without the baggage of modern society. I took no money, portable phone, radio, credit cards, etc. I did take my pet bird. Over a period of years, I traveled from the Gulf of Mexico to the Beaufort Sea, on streams, rivers, lakes, oceans, and overland. I foraged for my food and was self-sufficent for transport and shelter. My bird was my teacher. I went completely feral and relied on instinct, rather than intellect. The longer I traveled, the more I avoided human contact. When I ended the voyage, upon entering a small city, I realized that I was completely insane and that I needed to re-integrate, slowly. I have re-integrated, somewhat. I treasure and maintain some of my insane skills.

Next example....... Leonard B.

I have many, many stories from my friendship with Leonard B, who was completely insane. Leonard is a world reknowned paleontologist, with no university education. As a teenager, he apprenticed himself to the founder of the field. So, much of what is studied at universities is directly a result of Leonard's early field work. Over time Leonard became the director of one of the largest natural history museums but the staff, which was composed mostly of PhDs in natural sciences, resented his unschooled and strange behaviours. Since this was a public museum, they sued in administrative court to remove Leonard from his position. The attorneys for the staff claimed that Leonard should be removed from his position, because he was insane, and they cited many instances of his strang behaviour.

Leonard chose to represent himself, before the court. In a fifteen minute argument, he agreed with all of the claims of the plaintiffs. He then informed the judge that he was completely insane and regarded insanity as his best asset and absolutely necessary for his work. He further explained that he was a pure scientist, who had spent his entire career expanding the field of human knowledge. In order to expand the field of human knowledge, one must function outside the boundaries of human knowledge and experience. If one works within the boundaries of human experience, one is a student of science, not a pure scientist.

In his decision, the judge agreed with the plaintiffs that Leonard was insane. He also agreed with Leonard that his insanity was absolutely necessary for his work. Thus, he ordered that proof of insanity be required for anyone to be given Leonard's job. Leonard resigned the following month.

Any questions??