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March 03, 2006


Sanity: A Container of Madness

The Deeply Sane

The sane avoid using words such as "self-control" or "self-discipline," or "effort" or "willpower." Instead, they think and talk about "temptation" and the doing or not doing of "forbidden" things. The sane choose to do forbidden things because of the sense that the thing they want to do is forbidden.

They don’t use these traditional phrases, because they don’t envision other people as creatures who are always living on the edge of being out of control. They don’t see people as morally depraved and inadequate, struggling to be good. Rather, they view people as having strong, competing wishes, while wanting to stay alive on top of that.

So instead of sanity seeming to be dichotomous choices between conformity and self-assertion, between sincerity and authenticity, between duty and desire, the sane person would want, ideally, to incorporate each of these into a repertoire rather than make the grand gesture of choosing between them.

It would be sane now not to be the czar of one idea, but rather to start from the position that everyone may well be right from their own perspective, while also taking it for granted that everyone is even more confused than they seem.

Havoc is always wreaked in fast cures for confusion. The sane believe that the recognition of confusion is a virtue. Further, a fundamental belief is that humiliating another person is the worst thing that we ever do.

Sanity should not be our word for the alternatives to madness; instead, it should refer to whatever internal capacities that we can rely upon to prevent inflicting humiliations upon others.

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