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Are we insane or is the world insane?

Updated on March 19, 2011

Saturday night, has always been a day to spend in drunkness,revelry and mayhem. /today being holi, there was much more excitement . I remembered the first holi I had celebrated with one of my dearest friends at her home. A bunch of us had gotten together and played, throwing colors, eating lots of yummy home cooked food and some beer to add to the merrymaking. This year, we had plans to do much the same things but it dint pan out and we each were in different corners of the world. It was somewhat quieter, we went for a movie. The black swan, which was absolutely riveting and utterly disturbing. Natalie Portman plays a young ballet dancer who is driven by her dream to overcome her obscure status as one among many dancers and ultimately is so carried away by her life’s ambition that she truly dies in the course of it.

While watching it there were moments that completely gripped, tore and catapulted me into a myriad emotions. I was pulled by the powerful play of emotions, by the characters that unraveled on screen and echoes of many different events in my own life seemed to crowd my head through the movie. As I left the theater I found myself thinking back to my college days when we had a conference on Psychology and Cinema. There was a certain speaker who I remember saying that in order to truly understand psychosis and to fathom the depths of the human mind and a state of distortion, one has to experience it first hand. She spoke of how medication and the state of a mind trapped in a distorted reality could only be experienced by someone who has experienced it firsthand. She even said that in order to understand how it feels to be on those drugs, as students of the discipline we would have to try it ourselves.

Following the session, we wondered how it would be, to experience that. We discussed it at length, how does someone lose that tenous and fragile grip on reality. We all have our moments of self doubt, of anger, of sadness, of joy, of guilt and of fear. When does it get so overwhelming as to want to let go of the thread of reality and sanity that is acceptable and is the norm and slip over into the abyss. When does the mind enter that other realm and everyone else, the majority so to speak, declare us as not being mentally fit. What if those living lives of walking the tightrope between reality and their delusions were really not ill but somehow experiencing an alternate dimension of their own.Sounds crazy does it not?

Reutrning from the movie, my mind traveled along the same note. Wondering what it is like to lose that thread that binds us to a sense of being normal, content and not out of sync with what is perceived to be real and what is perceived to be unreal. Driving home, lost in my thoughts, smack in the middle of the road, we happened upon a man, barely visible in the dim street lights. As we got closer to the intersection, the lights shone brighter and it was man completely nude, wandering in the middle of the road, half covered in dust. A sort of panic gripped me, I cannot quite explain what, a sort of revulsion, fear and shame at having thought that I could fathom or even begin to understand what it is to truly lose one’s mind and walk lost, forlorn and alone in the darkness of my own mind, unaware of what it is to feel shame, to feel like the last desolate being wandering aimlessly without boundaries. I wanted to stop and speak to some policemen or find some help but I drove home. I picked up my phone and first dialed NIMHANS, an institute for the mentally ill, where someone utterly uninterested and calm redirected me to dial another number where I was informed a doctor and an ambulance would arrive on the scene and decide if the man needs to be taken in, requires any attention or help at all. I dialed the second number where another person, a nameless entity again informed me that they were aware and thanking me for informing them again. I do not know if I felt fear for myself at having wondered how it is to lose the thread that binds me to a sense of reality and acceptable behavior or if it was about whether that man would find help before some drunken individual speeding at night ran him over. I had a heated argument with my partner for not being allowed to stop the car and report the incident to some policemen who I saw on the way. As I write now, I wonder if I am angry that there are incidents, there are people who are just as lost, fully clothed and seemingly in their right minds, at the brink of falling into a darkness from which there is no cure. If life is so fragile, why do we while it away. Why am I writing this, am I like that journalist who watches and makes a story of just about anything and then is applauded for having brought out some brilliant image of suffering or depravity or am I some lost soul wondering if life does hold meaning? If people care?

In the rat race for more position, more power, more wealth, are we losing our sense of who we are? Do we know what tomorrow holds? We don’t live in fear, we live in abandon of the now. Whether earthquakes shatter homes or nuclear disaster strikes, we always live with fear for ourselves first and then others. Aren’t we an utterly selfish race, aren’t we a greedy and wanton bunch seeking meaning in the seemingly obscure and insensitive lives we live. Aren’t we simply people who seek meaningless trinkets and accolades that will not be remembered. Doesn’t the world go on and everyone else still laugh, celebrate and lose themselves in some pleasure or another even when in a corner a life is lost, a mind is sheared by the agonies it can no longer bear and a whole nations mourns. Are we not playthings in the grip of some higher power? Or are we simply living by the choices we make that haunt us and warn us to live with more meaning. I write seeking absolution of some kind, answers that I know will not suddenly come to me and look for a shred of light in this moment of confusion. I wonder if I will be any different or any better on account of what I see today. Compassion, hope, dignity, integrity, faith and love are all beautiful words given meaning by us, we who do not truly understand how they came to be in the first place. What then, is it to live and why do we prize this existence and life above all?

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