Why I Write So Many Essays On Madness

I write to tease out from the faded, garbled, torn and scattered pages of my horribly misprinted Mental Book the Answers to my Important Questions.

Michael David Crawford, Consulting Software Engineer
Solving The Software Problem
mdcrawford@gmail.com

December 15, 2008

Copyright © 2008 Michael David Crawford. All Rights Reserved.

Dear Friends,

I want to explain to you why even the most barbed insults are actually the most valuable editorial comments I ever get in response to my written works.

I want to explain why I write essays such as the piece I've been consumed with lately, regarding my ill-fated love for the woman I call Enigma:

Recall my piece where I adopted the character of a street preacher named Brother Mike. While only that one essay preaches in an explicit way, just about every essay I ever write is intended to convey an important lesson from The Good Book.

However, there are different Good Books depending on the problem domain; in the case of Sermon at the Soup Kitchen, it was books such as John Lakos' Large Scale C++ Software Design. But in the case of my essays about Madness, both my own and that of others, The Good Book is one we all carry: The Book Inside Our Heads.

While many editions, revisions, translations, abridgements and annotations of The Book of the Mind can be had, in a certain fundamental sense The Book each of us carry in Our Heads is The Very Same Book.


For a Young Man to Leave his Home

I am quite grateful that localroger planted the seed that resulted in the conception of this essay. I thought at first that he had come to life full-grown and fully formed, like Venus was. Just in time I realized that his birth might be premature, in fact just barely prevented first miscarriage then his stillbirth.

My essay was after a very difficult delivery born as a comment merely in reply to another.

In the heady days of his youth, he roamed the town and countryside where he lived as a diary.

But the day finally came when he felt it was time that he might leave his Mother and his Father and make a life for himself on his own, through whatever skill and craft he might manage to acquire in what my essay fully recognized can be and often is a hard, cold and merciless world.

While yet young and with much wisdom to be gained through bitter experience, my essay is in every Legal respect an Adult, qualified for example to Vote, to Fight, Kill and to Die for his Mother Country, and to consume The Demon Liquor.

Therefore I ask you to grant him the patience you might grant anyone younger than yourself, so as to help him understand the error of his ways, while at the same time according him the very same respect you would any of your own grown-up friends and colleagues, by speaking your mind directly and without any manner of hesitation.

An Unfortunate Exercise For The Reader

No doubt many of you have tried to follow a proof or derivation in a Mathematics or Physics class, but found yourself lost when your professor skipped some important steps under the assumption that the student would know enough to fill them in, mentally and silently.

Thus it is with much of my own writing.

I offer my heartfelt apology for assuming that my purpose in just about anything I write is plainly apparent to any reader. The howls of MTV; VTD I often receive with every submission make it clear that that might not always be the case.

Even so, while I myself understand my purpose in posting every story, I'm not always able to make that purpose clear to anyone else at all. My purpose lives in my own head, my fingers type what I think ought to convery that purpose into yours, yet so often I am faced with little more than requests to resection what I feel is an important work, written To Benefit All Mankind, to my own diary, being that I'm just relating in an overly-detailed way yet one more anecdote from the train wreck of a life I readily admit that I really have lived for most of my years.

Thus my gratitude that, as I said, it was localroger and not I that conceived this essay:

Actually, he is trying to teach us something

He has been very clear about this at times. Mike has had an extraordinary life -- call it extraordinarily fucked up if you want, but he has gone through a lot, and much of what he writes is directed at letting other people have the benefit of his experience. This was the point of what I still consider one of the finest pieces ever to appear on K5, Living with Schizoaffective Disorder.

(Emphasis mine - MDC)

Many times I've tried to state just that, but always my aim fell far short. It was only the simple clarity of localroger's contribution that enabled me to finally explain what I have tried and failed to do for eleven years now - since long before I ever set eyes upon Kuro5hin.

Brother Mike's Mad Brother: Each Step Explicit

There was a time when the original Good Book was only available in Latin, so that only those specially trained in the art could read and understand it. That was the case until the 1960's or so with The Book of the Mind; only psychiatrists and psychologists were able to read it. The best they could ever do was to apply its teachings to save the Mad from our Sins, but they were largely unable to actually read the book to any of us.

That began to change as I said in the 60's, with such books as Robert Pirsig's Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, Ken Kesey's One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest and Mark Vonnegut's The Eden Express.

Mark Vonnegut is the schizophrenic son of the famous novelist Kurt Vonnegut. Mental illness runs throughout their whole family; Kurt's mother committed suicide when he was a young man, and Kurt himself attempted it in a serious way in 1984.

Slaughterhouse Five is a bizarre, fictional depiction of Kurt's real-life experience as a World War II POW. He survived the Dresden Firebombing, quite likely the most destructive bombing raid of the whole war short of the Atomic blasts, yet without a doubt the most senseless. Prior to the Allied raid, Dresden held little of value to anyone except a great deal of exquisite art and architecture - certainly nothing of any military or strategic value. Vonnegut said "it looks like Oz".

I once read that Kurt's novels are so grimly absurd because that's how he was able to make some sense of his own Madness.

I explained long ago that the reason why I write is to carefully, methodically and patiently tease out from the faded, garbled, torn and scattered pages of my own horribly misprinted Mental Book the answers to The Important Questions of My Life.

Just as Absurdity made sense of Vonnegut's Inner World, Essays on Madness enable me to make sense of My Own.

But the reason I publish these essays - The Answers to My Life's Questions - is that, having answered to my own satisfaction an Important Question, I hope - and sometimes I find - that one or another of my essays might answer The Very Same Question asked by someone else.

For the most part I write to Answer my own Questions, but at times I write to Answer the Questions others Pose; I've done that several times before, but I'm now working to do that in the most complete and captivating way I have ever attempted with I Listened To The Siren's Song.

(Yes, I changed the title again. It just seemed to fit better somehow.)

Not all my essays on Madness are written so well as to reach my intended audience - but in every single case, it was this very same audience that I struggled to reach:

My aim was to translate Parables and Psalms from The Book of the Mind into Everyday English, in such a way that any schoolchild could gain insight into the Inner World of anyone's mind - their own, that of their loved ones, and, importantly, the mind of any Madman they might ever meet.

It wasn't at all my intention at first, but it turns out that some of my better works enabled The Clergy to understand The Book of the Mind in a deeper way than they were able to do by reading it in its original Latin. That's been the case, for example with Living with Schizoaffective Disorder: I've been told by all manner of mental health professionals - Psychiatrists, Psychotherapists, Licensed Clinical Social Workers, Psychiatric Nurses and so on that I enabled them to understand some of their patients in a way that none of their schooling or work with actual Madmen ever did.

I was told once that the piece was on a recommended reading list distributed by the California Department of Mental Health to each of its County Mental Health Clinics.

The Inmate Who Ran The Asylum

It happens that I've been having a spat with my shrink. I met her my first night at that hospital to which I committed myself in July. In one way I have a deep gratitude for an insight which she shared with me that very first night, which caused me to step back from what I will tell you now was the reason I made the decision to turn myself in:

I knew that if I didn't get myself to safety within an hour or two of when I actually did, to find a place where someone else could look after my safety, without a doubt I would leap to my death from the Golden Gate Bridge.

And I will share with you that my decision to seek that safety wasn't born of any kind of desire for my own self-preservation. It was that I spent some time contemplating what it would do to Bonita if I were to jump. She is not yet able to provide for herself, and if I were to die by my own hand, she wouldn't receive a penny of my life insurance.

It was that I spent some time contemplating the fact that if I jumped, as I was so eager to do, Bonita and our two beagles, who we both love as if they were our own children, would quickly become homeless and destitute.

I have several complaints, but I'll mention just one: from time to time I try to explain some insight or understanding of Madness to her, and whenever it's something that she doesn't already know, or in which we disagree in any way, she will quickly, bluntly and forcefully put me in my place by reminding me of who is The Doctor and who The Patient.

As you might well imagine, I finally put my foot down, by writing a lengthy letter that pointed out that she's not the only one among the two of us with any understanding of Madness. Among other things, I wrote:

Surely you have heard the old joke with the punchline, "I may be crazy, but I'm not stupid." That would be me.

Without a doubt you have a deep understanding of mental illness. But I have an insight into the nature of Madness that will be forever beyond your reach: while you understand it from your schooling, your books, your lectures, your conferences and of course from your work with us patients, I understand from having lived A Life of Madness for at least thirty-nine of my forty-four years.

You understand Madness from the outside; I understand it from the inside. While your perspective yields tremendous power to ease the suffering of the sick, your perspective isn't at all unique. There are many who possess the same insight you do. I've met many mentally ill folk over the years, but have yet to meet any who possess the insight into Madness - not just my own, but that of others - that I have possessed since the very beginning.

The insight that I possessed back in the early days, for example my ability to make schizophrenics stop hallucinating, wasn't something that I had to work to learn. As far as I am able to tell, I was born with that knowledge. It's never even been particularly difficult; no more so than, say, walking.

For twenty-three of those years, I have been pondering a very difficult puzzle: a nurse at the hospital where I was diagnosed looked up at me once and quietly said:

We could learn so much from you.

The puzzle is that I didn't ask what she meant, and have never really been sure. But for many, many years now I have struggled to answer that question, in the best way I knew how:

Most of the mentally ill seek treatment just because they hope to feel better. If they can get that, then they are completely satisfied. But that has never been enough for me. From my very first visit to my very first shrink, without any consideration for how good or how profoundly despondent I have ever felt, I have struggled - constantly, for decades now - to understand The Nature of Madness: what causes it, what eases it, what cures it - and, in many respects most importantly - why so many hate us Madmen.

For eleven years now, whenever I have learned or figured out anything new, I have written it up in any essay and published it on the World Wide Web. You'll find an index to the lot of it here:

Regarding that insight she shared with me, for which I am so grateful, and which without a doubt saved me from certain death: I will be happy to share it with all of you, in fact, if I had my way I would tattoo its explanation to the forehead of every man, woman and child on the planet.

But not yet. That is an essay for another day. Forgive me, but I must request your continued patience.

The Good Fight

While I definitely hope I might Heal the Sick with my writing, my real hope is to help the Sane and Healthy understand us Madmen. In part it's so our loved ones might comfort us and aid in our healing, but more importantly, it is because I know very well that:

Projection is also the primary case of stigma: we hate the most in others that which we hate the most in ourselves. Homophobia, for example, often arises in the minds of men who doubt their own sexuality. Hitler persecuted the Jews because he was ashamed of his own Jewish heritage.

The mentally ill are hated, and many hate me for incessantly whoring my essays on mental illness because darkness lurks in the hearts of all men, not just the crazy ones. Yet, at the risk of my reputation, my livelihood, even my career, I continue to proclaim my batshit insanity from the highest rooftops because I know that the education of the sane is the key to our survival.

That is, the very people I aim to teach the lessons of The Good Book are not The Believers, not The Initiated, not The Lay Clergy nor The Men of the Cloth:

No, I write what I do because I aim to save The Sinners, The Unbelievers and those filled with Hatred and Evil.

Were Adolf Hitler or Josef Stalin alive today, my hope would be that I could write an essay so powerful, so compelling, so convincing and so Endowed With The Divine Word Of God Himself - Written by Him, merely typed by me, His humble scribe - that these two Madmen, otherwise regarded by History as the very Personifications of Evil, might Lay Down Their Arms, Lay Down Their Hatred as well, and walk out in the public squares of their towns so that they might offer a beer or a coffee to the very first Jew or Capitalist they each happened to come across.

It is for that very reason that I regard lonelyhobo's and th0m's barbs and insults in response to my efforts as the very most valuable of all possible editiorial comments, and not any manner of obstacle.

Because I know very well that unless I can make my case convincingly to Those Who Hate Me, to Those Who Would Like Nothing More Than To See Me Dead - but Those Who I Myself Know, because they are among my many Kuron friends...

Then I won't be able to make my case to The Evil Ones I have never met and never will meet.

It is my hope that by writing these essays, I might spare The Child his Pedophile, I might spare The Corpse his Murderer, I might spare The Woman her Rapist, that I might.... if I can somehow... over the years of my future work here at Kuro5hin and elsewhere... that I might learn to write well enough... that... I... might spare The Whole of Humanity the Very End of Its Days.

Quite likely you've read what I've just written and regarded it as inspired by delusion, mania or at least grandiosity.

But I want to demonstrate to you, the power for both Good and Evil that simple writing - not even fancy writing - can have. Consider these two books:

All they are is words! Nothing more! But What Words!

It happens that, for reasons I won't go into just now, I recently wanted to understand Hatred and Stigma in a deep way. To learn more about these, I picked up some of the works of The Reverend Martin Luther King Junior.

But King wrote of how one might transform Hatred into Love and Stigma into Brotherhood. I wanted to understand Hatred and Stigma in a more fundamental way, by learning each of The Murderous Axioms, The Vengeful Arithmetic, and The Evil Rules Of Inference, so that I myself might be able - convinced as I was that they were False and Wrong - might be able to derive The Theorems that governed The Murder of the Jews - and with them, My Brothers and Sisters.

Because, you see, us Madmen sniffed the Zyklon B right along with the Jews and the Gypsies.

And so, I decided to obtain a copy of The Devil's Bible:

The Bad Book

The Evil Book

The Book Of Crime Which Schooled All Of History's Most Horrific Criminals.

I went out and bought Ralph Manheim's English translation of Adolf Hitler's Mein Kampf.

(Mein Kampf means "My Struggle".)

I haven't read a whole lot of it yet; but what I have read so far drove home a very important and fundamental point in my understanding of Pure Evil:

We have all seen old newsreels of Hitler shouting maniacally to stadiums full of orgiastic Nazis. It's easy to pass him and everything he says off as the product of either Madness or Evil.

But Mein Kampf is not that way. Or rather, it doesn't appear so upon first reading.

The man is - was - actually quite a good writer. Far better than I ever expected him to be. Perhaps the whole book isn't this way, but what few pages I have read make it quite clear that Herr Hitler was, when he wrote that book at least, a quiet, contemplative, articulate and very thoughtful man.

From the Preface:

... an opportunity was for the first time offered for me to embark upon a task which many had demanded and which I myself felt to be worth while for the movement. I decided to set forth, in two volumes, the aims of our movement, and also to draw a picture of its development. From this it will be possible to learn more than from any purely doctrinaire treatise.

At the same time I have had occasion to give an account of my own development, in so far as this is necessary for the understanding of the first as well as the second volume, and so far as it my serve to destroy the foul legends about my person dished up in the Jewish press.

Hateful? Yes. Anti-Semitic? Of course. Inspired by Madness? While I expect it was, that's not so obvious from what I've quoted so far.

Not every reader knows enough to read critically, that is, to even question whether what they read makes any kind of logical sense.

While I haven't read much more than what I just posted, I can easily imagine that the author doesn't so much hurl insults at the objects of his hatred, but, as I said, carefully, clearly and simply uses all those Horrible Axioms, Arithmetics and Rules of Inference I aim to understand to create not simple Violence, but a complete, if externally-psychotic at least internally-consistent framework upon which he, at the time of his writing, planned to construct the Machinery of Destruction which, after his release from prison, he actually was able to achieve.

I have struggled to find the right word to describe my regard for the book's Dedication. "Irony" could be pressed into service here, but that just doesn't capture the required essence.

You see, Adolf Hitler dedicated Mein Kampf to the the men who gave their lives in his service during the Beer Hall Putsch, his abortive attempt to overthrow the Weimar Republic in Munich, on November 9, 1923. Let me count the dead one more time, just to make sure.

Sixteen.

Mein Kampf is dedicated to the memory of sixteen fallen men.

(Pardon me while I step outside to scream maniacally at the cold and unblinking stars.)

(Ah yes. Better now.)

I hope that through my own efforts to be - and yes I know I'm often not this way - quiet, contemplative, articulate and very thoughtful, the essays or books I write might achieve the very same magnitude of Good that Hitler's book achieved of Evil.

Thank you for taking the time to read all this, and thank you for any advice you might have.

Your Humble Servant,
Michael David Crawford