It’s a Madhouse, a Madhouse!

Don’t say I didn’t warn you….

Come on, John. Chew, chew, chew!… See, if you chew, your jaw muscles, they get tired, see? And then the other muscles, they get the message, and they get tired too, see? And before you know it, you’re sleeping. And, when we’re asleep, nobody can tell a sane man from an insane man, huh?

— Pagliacci to reporter Johnny Barrett in Shock Corridor

Maybe it was the shootings in Tucson, maybe it was a hangover from the emotional overload of the holidays, but since the year turned, I haven’t been interested in reality so much as how it can become folded upon itself, how the mind can become dislocated.

I’m not equipped to be able to determine whether the accused Arizona gunman, Jared Loughner, is sane or insane, or if his version of the world is wildly different than my own. In viewing the videos he apparently uploaded to YouTube, one’s struck by the repetition of odd words and phrases in a language that is similar to our own, but lacking a shared context. It’s as if his mind became a stuck record, skipping time and again.

The old saying about the mentally ill is that they never realize it’s happening to them.  They have no barometer for it. If your reality begins to diverge from the norm, how would you ever know?  And would you listen to those who tried to tell you otherwise, or would you be convinced that you were the only righteous person in a world gone off its axis?  What if it turned out to be true, that you were, in fact, the last sane man in the world?

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