This might be a contradictory sentence, but I have never heard of a more perfect notion of madness than what we find in Foucault’s Madness and Civilization. In the fourth chapter, “Passion and Delirium,” Foucault argues that there is a kind of reason in madness. If a man is actually made of glass, and glass is easily shattered, of course he is going to have to be careful when he touches anything, right? That is a reasonable response. Thus, if a man believes himself to be made of glass, but he actually is not, then the most reasonable thing for him to do is to avoid touching anything that might shatter him. And yet we call him mad, unreasonable, irrational, because he really is not made of glass.
Madness, then, is not altogether in the image, which of itself is neither true nor false, neither reasonable nor mad; nor is it, further, in the reasoning which is mere form, revealing nothing but the indubitable figures of logic. And yet madness is in one and in the other: in a special version or figure of their relationship.
–Madness and Civilization, p. 95, Vintage edition
Foucault argues that this relationship between madness and reason is that of a dazzled reason. In the dictionary, to be dazzled is to be blinded because of a sudden bright light. Foucault says that madness and reason both see the same light, but madness does not think it sees that particular light, but only the darkness and the things in its imagination. This is the ultimate difference between madness and reason. Madness is not a lack of reason, nor is reason a lack of madness; but they are one and the same, but respond differently to the same light.
My brother is schizophrenic. At one time, he was obsessed with the notion that to be shy is to be mean. Because he was a very shy guy, he believed that he must be very mean as well. When I ask him why he thought so, he lent me his dictionary that, under the word ‘shy’, led to another word, which led to another word, which led to another word that meant ‘mean.’ There is a definite logic to this. After all, if a synonym of ‘shy’ could lead to a synonym that meant ‘mean,’ that must mean he is mean, right? (I tried explaining to him that some words had different meanings, but I’m not sure if he understood what I said, though he doesn’t think about that anymore anyway.)
But I understand exactly what Foucault is getting at. There is a definite logic to the madman’s madness. If he sees a man that he believes is the Devil, and the man curses him, of course he is going to believe that he is cursed. If he believes that there is a bomb on his person that would explode if he moves, of course he would stop moving and stay as still as he possibly can. What’s scary about this all is that we all believe in things; the trick is to ask yourself if that belief is true or false.
Perhaps we are all mad in some way.
I’m sorry for not updating on here more often. But I have big news tonight: I just finished my first draft for the first novel of my series, the series I’m going to be using for my senior thesis. The working title was “Becoming God” but has now changed to “The Rising Spirit.” The major premise used to be that God is a writer, but has now changed to the related questions: When do we accept what life has given us and when do we fight against it? Is it ever right to go from being true to oneself to being true to another person? Is it ever wrong?
I began the draft on about July 24th, 2014 and finished it on August 10th, 2014. It has a little over 121,000 words. It spans about four years of the protagonist’s life, from when he is 13 until he is 17. The second book, which might be the main book for my senior thesis, begins about four or five years later, when the protagonist is 21 or 22. I used first person in the first book because I enjoy it more. So I will probably use it again. The first book is mainly a prelude to the series, which will talk about the magic of light-workers, which is a form of magic in which the user creates light to perform the magic, and the magic of reasurism, or the art of making things come to life by creating it through something else, such as writing or art. Perhaps it might be too much to put two different magic systems in the same book. But I’ll figure it all out later.
I began the outline of the book I will write for my senior thesis. The working title is “Becoming God.” I know this title sounds more appropriate for a piece of nonfiction than fiction, but this is a novel. (I am certain that when this is done, the title will have changed.) One of the basic premises for the story is this: we all have the desire to be God, and the way we choose to live our lives is what we believe to be the best path toward that goal. I began this endeavor by pondering fiction and how it is that we can feel such a connection to people that we know are not real. I recently finished all the books that have been written so far about Lukien the Bronze Knight, including, The Eyes of God, The Devil’s Armor, The Sword of Angels, and The Forever Knight, by John Marco. I loved each of them, and I felt all of the characters were so real. This is what good fiction does to us: it makes us believe that it’s all real while we are immersed in its world. But this is also the paradox of fiction: how can we have an emotional connection with fictional entities when we know with all our hearts that none of them is real?
This is exactly what one of the characters asks himself. But he eventually comes to the conclusion that there really is nothing unreal about fictional worlds and characters. They are all real, but in an entirely different ‘possible world.’ And eventually he believes that fictional stories are as real as our world. He argues to himself that the worlds and stories we currently have are all based on fictional stories that God has written. God is the Creator of our world. Thus, if we, as writers, created worlds, then we must also be God. Because this character has an insatiable desire to become God and is unafraid to admit it, he decides to leave everything behind in order to pursue this goal.
This is just one instance of a person emanating what he thinks God is through how he lives his life. There are many others, but there will only be four point of view characters. And yet even this seems like too many for a simple senior thesis. The story has become larger than I had intended, and I may need to split it into two or more books.
Anyhow, I am excited to begin this book. Tomorrow I will meet with one of my instructors about some ideas he had given me through email. And then I will let you all know what happens and when I begin my first draft.
As some of you may know, I have had an extremely difficult time deciding a major; specifically, deciding what areas of emphasis I will have for my Integrated Studies degree. I am here to announce that I have chosen, and I have no intention of changing them anytime soon, if at all. Of course, I will stay with the Integrated Studies (IS) program because I love it. In this program, students have two areas of emphasis; some have more than two, but two are required. I have chosen three: English, Humanities, and Philosophy. And I plan on finally graduating with my Bachelors degree in Spring of 2016. Someday, I plan on going to graduate school, and I might wind up teaching college part-time. But in the end, I want to write.
I know I haven’t been writing much on this blog, and I had hoped to change that. But I will only write when I can. My other blog, iaataawaistu.wordpress.com, is also available to check out (this is the blog where I will write more philosophical posts).
Today, I spoke with the IS advisor about what I plan on doing for my senior thesis: a novel about becoming God. I know that that might sound a little bit strange, but once I get working on it, I will let you all know what exactly it’s about. I already have a general outline, but I hope not to reveal it yet. In fact, I’m not sure I would reveal it until I submit it for publication.
Thank you all for bearing with me! I am more excited than ever to finish my degree and finally begin my life! It’s been a long time coming, a long time…but it will come eventually. I know that I have a lot of growing up to do still. I grew up in a way in my teen years, but in the shallow way of growing up (learning to drive, cook, clean, etc.), I’m still working on it. But once I get this degree, it will be one major milestone in my life.
I am currently an Integrated Studies major at Utah Valley University. But I have recently decided to change my areas of emphasis to Philosophy (of course!) and English. This is because, as you might know, that I have always loved writing (it was my first love, in fact) and have wanted to write for a living for a long time. In fact, people often tell me that I am a great writer, just like my Integrated Studies teacher when I gave him my short story for my project. It did not matter if I did English, I was thinking about doing a novel for my senior thesis. But now that it is going to be English, a novel would be extremely relevant.
Like I said in my last ‘Beyond Madness’ post, I like the concept of madness. (I am also very interested in psychology, but the psychology program here puts too much emphasis on empirical research and mathematics than what psychology is actually supposed to be about, that is, understanding human behavior, thoughts, etc.) Anyway, much of psychology is taken from philosophy, especially from such things as Stoicism (one should accept all the bad things that happen to them if there is no way for one to change them) and existentialism. The concepts of madness and death are important for continental philosophy, and particularly for existentialism. I won’t go into what existentialism is here, especially since there are so many ‘definitions’ of existentialism. But core of the field of inquiry is human existence. Anyway, I wanted to write about what I plan to do for my senior thesis.
The title of the post, with the exception of ‘2’, is exactly what I wanted to do. The series that I am more actively working on, the one about narolomy, has several volumes…possibly five. The one I wanted to write for my senior thesis is probably the second one, entitled ‘Beyond Madness,’ and it is about The Deal. In this case, to hopefully not give too much away (though you can read more about it in the ‘Beyond Madness’ post from last month), the protagonist is going to be making a deal with the devil, or the main antagonist, a deal that grants him his physical life but that in the end destroys his mental life. He goes mad after making the deal because of the guilt that he feels as a result of it. Now why would anybody want to make this deal…trade his physical life for his mental life? I asked myself this question, and I realized that it is because most people believe that their own nonexistence is more frightening than their own insanity. But the protagonist finds out the hard way that he would rather have died than experience all that he does. (Not only because becomes insane…in fact, the deal results in the loss of one of his family members, and the guilt that he feels is the cause of the madness.)
I feel like most people view nonexistence as the most terrible thing, the most frightening thing, in the world. But in fact, people are more afraid of madness, and especially their own madness. People are willing to talk about the idea that there is no afterlife, that once we die that’s it. They are willing to consider their own mortality and that someday they might cease to exist. Fewer are willing to talk about the idea that they are in the matrix or that all they see do not really exist. In fact, most people say that the question of whether we’re in the matrix (or whether they are mad) is irrelevant and stupid; all of the things we see are real to us, and that’s really all that matters. It is as if they are afraid to talk about it. In my own experience, I am more afraid of my own insanity as well. But most people say that they would rather live in a shattered reality, and know they are in a shattered reality, than cease to exist, or at least die. In this novel, I wanted to argue that humans in general are more prone to shun madness than nonexistence.
There will also be themes about good and evil, and how even the Devil himself was once an innocent child. It is also about love, forgiveness, and acceptance, as well as hate and rejection. Of course, I’ll have to provide a summary of the first book of the series in order for the reader to know what’s going on, of the events that preceded the deal, and what led to this specific deal. This will be an exciting novel, an exciting senior thesis! This year, there had also been a student doing a novel for his senior thesis, and he won an award for one of the best senior theses in the department. I’m not sure if my novel could win such an award, but I think this novel will be a masterpiece.
In the Integrated Studies course I was taking this semester, we were required to do a term final project, which can be 10-15 page paper, a piece of artwork, a piece of music, a piece of literature, etc. For the first 2/3 of the semester, I had decided to do a term paper. However, as the semester went on, I was thirsting to get started on a story that had a lot of relevance to the class topic (which was Heidegger’s Thinking and Being, Indian thought, and Bohm’s account of quantum mechanics). This was partly because one of my friends had submitted the first novel in her book to Shadow Mountain earlier this semester. And I was thinking, “What are you doing not working on your writing?” So I decided that it was time to begin writing again. And although the semester was more than halfway done, I asked my instructor’s permission to do the story instead of the paper for my final project. He granted me permission, and I wrote the story.
The last time I met with him was the last week of April, and we discussed grades and assignments. I was surprised to hear that he loved my story and wanted to use it as an example in case future students wanted to do short stories in his classes. He asked me where I got the ideas for the story, and I told him all about it. The story has been in my head for about a year, and I always thought it was a unique idea. But I wasn’t sure how he would have taken it, so I was surprised when he loved it. He also encouraged me to do more with my writing, perhaps an IS emphasis in English or something similar. I already wanted to do writing as a profession, but thinking about Dan Wells’ advice to me (that he wished he had studied something else in college besides English because writers learn to write by writing, but they also need knowledge about the world), I was thinking about doing an IS emphasis in Humanities because that would give me background in many things related to human beings. But I am also thinking about doing English.
Of course, philosophy is going to have to be one of them. I love philosophy and always will. If I actually decided to write professionally, I would still want to go to graduate school to study philosophy. Perhaps not a PhD, since those are mainly for those who want to teach, but an MA. I think that would be very enjoyable.
I will probably post the story on this blog sometime in the future. To give you a heads up, it is about a young girl that has heard a call all her life, a call that she will follow in the story and discover something earth-shattering about the world. The thing that has been calling her has called her to be a prophetess to give humans its message. And people scorn her for this message, and she and her family need to go into hiding. About 20 years after this experience, she comes out again to publish a pamphlet that summarizes her experience for those who didn’t get to hear it firsthand, and this pamphlet was the story that I turned in.
I will turn this story in to the Writers of the Future contest (the next deadline is July 1) after editing, and I will use the name A. R. Vapor, of course. If I do become a professional writer, I might reveal my identity, but I’m not sure if I actually will. The people that know me, if they follow this blog, which I doubt they would, might be able to connect the dots; but then again, I don’t keep in touch with many people. So even if they did follow this blog, they would probably still not know who I am…
Anyway, look out for a post about the Writers of the Future contest in June…if I submit it before July 1. I’m glad my instructor loved my story.
Every time I decide to make a comment in class, I feel like I am risking my life. This is probably a twisted view of the world, but it is the truth. When I decide to answer or ask a question, I know that the course of my life depends upon the reaction of the class and particularly the instructor. If the reaction is positive, I know that my life is going to go well (until I make another comment). If the reaction is negative, I know that I will consider taking my life, and someday perhaps I will. This might sound dramatic, but it is the truth about the way I think about the world around me and myself. I have known this truth for a long time, and this is a main reason I do not usually make comments. I usually try to answer my own questions outside of class, or ask the instructor during office hours or during other times.
I wish I could just live in a place that has no other human beings! Actually, if it was just my sister or my mother, I would be fine with it. But having to live among hundreds of human beings is extremely draining, and my life is at stake every time I step onto the campus or even just out my front door.
But someday, I will find a small house in the woods and write for a living. This way, when I receive hate mail, I will not feel as powerful an urge to take my own life, as I would when facing a large crowd. I will write under a pen name so nobody knows who I am. I will be able to go into the trees anytime I want and become one with nature. I can see it now. This would be my dream life.