When insanity was interesting and useful


Paul Wallis, Sydney Media Jam CO2Readers please note: This is a long one. Haul up a few psychoses and something else nice to eat or drink, and settle in. Anyone living today could be forgiven for thinking insanity is just boring. In its modern form, it is. It’s usually a tangle of human issues, packaged by the psych sector in to various sorts of smug categorization, medicated, and otherwise largely ignored.

Modern insanity, in fact, leaves a lot to be desired. It’s not as interesting as it was, and it’s almost invariably related to the most banal, easily classified, types. It’s the modern equivalent of a cold, just longer lasting and occasionally fatal.

Insanity itself can equally easily be categorized in to anything which doesn’t have a rationale acceptable to others. All human thought has some sort of rationale, however unlikely, but in the case of insanity, you have to convince someone else that your rationale is acceptable, not to you, but to them.

3D flooring, picture of bed above blue sky and clouds

Source: Beddinginn.com In the past, this perspective would have been considered insane. Now it’s decor. interesting how sanity becomes dated, but insanity doesn’t, isn’t it?

In fact, insanity is having a hard time even being noticed in this society. Having forced itself in to the current repulsive environment it now inhabits, humanity is too “busy” to notice, or care, that it’s insane.  All this activity, being busy to the point of being clearly futile on any objective or personal basis, is how it happened.

Instead of dreaming of a better world, humans now visualize whole classes of mediocrities and clichés to which they aspire. Instead of being a genius, a leader in great things, or even a contributor to something worthwhile, you can now aspire to pay your phone bill, or something equally majestic. Instead of inventing a cure for anything, including yourself, you can hope one day to buy a new phone.

If you go insane, part of the problem will be that you’re not obsessed with these rationales. Why don’t you want to be some anonymous moron in a series of interminable Instagram photos?

You pervert, you.

Why aren’t you fixated on:

  • Cars and other things you can kill yourself with
  • Expensive things, however hideous and utterly pointless
  • Sex, however fictional
  • Appliances, however lethal
  • Fake financial schemes to support a delusion of wealth
  • Admiring criminals and other parasites
  • Wishing you were a serial killer being interviewed by a vegetable
  • Identifying with a high fructose street culture you know nothing about
  • Power over others, however uninteresting those others may be

If you’re not 2000% committed to aspiring to these things, you’re insane, in this society. Every single useless, anti-human idiocy is now compulsory as part of a rationale.

For example:

I bought an expensive car to improve my sex life and have a place to plug in my appliances. I then started a fake securities scam to help me meet criminals and become a serial killer who identifies with two dimensional media-created street thugs and has power over bores.

Inspiring, isn’t it? Those two sentences would have you classified as being far too sane to be worth talking to, ever again. You lucky sod.

That said – What happens when you suddenly find yourself mentally more than four years old, and need to have a life, or something? Modern insanity, alas, has no answers. It’s too shallow.

It may be able to turn you in to a gibbering lunatic, but it’s not too helpful otherwise. It may be able to deliver a sort of intellectual squalor that even a modern politician would envy, but it can’t be interesting on any level. It’s simply too samey.

To clarify:

What’s the point of being a homicidal maniac, if it’s just another day at the office, wading around with the chainsaw, as usual? Even being a pathological liar, profitable as it is, can get dull, and very unchallenging.

Worse, you can’t even generate much self-respect from all this internal psycho-laundering of your emotions and thoughts. This type of insanity goes nowhere but from A-B. C is unlikely, and the rest of the alphabet is quite out of the question because the modern form of insanity is so limiting. You need a better type of insanity, preferably the traditional type.

Please be aware: You may be forced in to hypocrisy, that lowest of pseudo-life modes, simply to convince yourself that your insanity is worth having. At this point, you’re doing all the work, and the insanity is just being lazy. That’s not where you want to be, is it?

Traditional insanity

Insanity, you say? Here’s a pretty good analysis.

First, a bit of background – Traditional insanity, unlike the modern form, wasn’t restricted to standardized formats. You could be considered, and actually be, insane, on any subject. Actual raving madness wasn’t too popular, but you could be pleasantly mad and tolerated simply because you talked about something other than sex, money, and other people.

This kept people’s vocabularies nice and moist, and allowed them to pretend they understood things. Then they could go back to their caves and laugh about those stupid wheel things and why making fire shouldn’t be invented.

In the 20th century, talking about other subjects was also qualified and supported by the fact that nobody had a clue what you were talking about, or why you were talking about it. It was a matter of personal pride to be as pig-ignorant as possible, while continuing to be classified as a vertebrate.

Suburban Instant Senility allowed people to admit they knew nothing about anything, too, which made life so much easier for everyone. Feeling secure in your ignorance, and being able to prove it so easily, enabled much of the 20th century’s most endearing atrocities.

Hence World War 1, World War 2, Vietnam, Korea, The Cultural Revolution, and a virtual horde of utterly futile world leaders who by rights should have been fed to the ants. This wasn’t insanity, in its pure form. It was stupidity, insanity’s most famous hanger-on, at work behind the scenes.

Stupidity, however, is also insanity’s most prolific hanger-on. Stupidity breeds stupidity. For instance, it’s only relatively recently that total ignoramuses have actually been able to accuse everyone else of being insane. Understanding of anything is now considered a crime, and proven idiots are permitted to talk about things they know nothing about.

OK, enough background. Assuming you’ve lived through the narrative to this point, you can now finally be put to rest and told the truth about old-style traditional insanity. Isn’t that nice?

Traditional insanity involved:

Actual intelligence: One of the most tedious hacks said about genius is that people were “either brilliant or mad”. Why not be both? In fact, how could you avoid it? Why in the name of freshly incinerated pedants would you want to be brilliant and dull as modern media or some other cultural handicap? Traditional insanity was rarely conducted to the extent of any degree of inconvenience to oneself.

Reassuringly vague: Unlike the drab, murderously verbose thesauri of modern nutters, traditionally insane people didn’t have fixed issues. They would ponder about places in the garden, for example, which they assigned totally different spectra of meaning and relevance. Their “spirit world” didn’t come with a lot of expensive merchandise, either.

Insightful: Traditional madness, oddly enough given the people who recorded it, would have flashes of real, accurate insight. These insights were often respected as actual intellectual achievements, like Archimedes, etc. Seems the ancients weren’t all that fussed about insanity, if whatever it discovered worked. Yes, that does mean that it was also interesting, in severe contrast to the trundling logic of modern “insanity”.

Beautiful: You can call modern insanity anything, but you certainly can’t call it beautiful. It’s typically trite, very narrow focused, and usually pretty forgettable. In the past, visionaries may have been insane, but had far superior aesthetics. (Actually, you have to question whether the word “beautiful” has any possible relationship at all with insanity.)

Quick: One of the most unforgivable issues with calling anyone insane is the failure to note how fast and how complex some “insane” thinking can be. It’s a matter of opinion whether you can be insane and so mentally thorough at the same time. Theoretically, and only according to his contemporary underachieving plodders in his discipline, Tesla was insane, but look how well his brief life anticipated so much future technology. (In fact, the Tesla mythos is a good indicator of the start of the practice of calling anyone who contests current norms as insane, and precious little good that thinking has ever done anyone.)

Out of the frames of reference: Traditional madness routinely goes outside all the boxes. It may refer to things nobody has ever even considered, or tried to define before. This is far too big a subject to address in adequate depth here, but just read a few bios, and watch the “insane” at work on ideas. They never put limits on themselves, and chased their ideas as far as they could go. Some might call it courage, others might call it honest intelligence.

One of the reasons for this article is that over the years I’ve done a lot of advisory work. My routine advice now is “Go mad. It saves time.”

How and why do I give this advice, you ask, perched on your throne of dazzling gems and innuendo?


Going visibly insane gives you an excuse to do whatever you want to do without much interference from others. They’ll leave you in peace when they realise they’re hopelessly out of their depth anyway, and your insanity will be their built-in excuse.

  1. Going insane according to others drastically improves your ability to communicate with those who have also decided they no longer want to communicate with this “world”, i.e., real thinkers.
  2. People don’t argue with the insane. You’ll be spared any amount of thunderous ignorance and slow thinking.
  3. The lingering, respected image of traditional insanity means that you’ll always have that threat of possibly being right to throw at people.
  4. It’s so much more fun than waiting to go happily insane and missing out on all your options.

Paul Wallis, Sydney Media Jam, Paul Wallis books

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