I don’t usually dig into the personal here in the briefing room, but Festivus is a time for reflection (among other things) so here we go.
My DNA is chock full of crazy genes. I have a schizophrenic uncle (whom has been confused for another hometown crazy, The King of Regina*); another one who might as well be crazy (unless sterilizing yourself because the cult leader tells you to sounds like a perfectly reasonable idea); a cousin who’s had a drug-induced psychotic break; one grandmother most certainly had undiagnosed OCD (her house wasn’t as bad as the Collyer Brothers’ but it was on the way); the other grandmother was manic depressive. You get the picture.
Suffice to say, I’m wary of ending up another one of the crazies. I’m not sure when or how I came to realize it, but somewhere in my late teens I figured out that that could easily be me in the psych ward, so let’s be a bit careful with our brain, how about?
Growing up with the ramblings of my schizophrenic uncle has done little to build my sympathy for him (but not my liking of him – I’m happy to spend time with him and talk sense at him). I’ve become unable to understand how he ended up the way he is. I can’t imagine that you wake up one day batshit mental, screaming obscenities at passers-by. Surely it’s a steady decent into irrationality. I cannot fathom that I would not take the time to stop and question if I really had just had a conversation with a fugitive KGB agent who was going to show me his stolen gold if I got my family to come help (yes, I have lived through that conversation and many more of that caliber).
William S. Burroughs & The Disposable Heroes of Hip-Hopracy – The Last Words of Dutch Shultz (This is Insane)
To me, the obvious way through the genetic minefield I’ve been thrown into the middle of is to not take those first few steps down the road to crazy-town. This means questioning everything, making sure that I actually am in line with reality. I’m not saying I hear voices in my head, but I’m going to make sure I’ve done everything in my power to dispel them if they *do* turn up. Practice makes perfect, right?
I can’t imagine not taking the time to investigate something for myself if I’m interested enough in it to talk to other people about it. I don’t look at this as a burden – in fact, I revel in the curiosity that my parents nurtured in me (thank you, mom & dad!). I can think of few things more depressing than a 75-year-old who believes the same things he or she did at 15.
The Prodigy – Crazy Man
Speaking of mom and dad, my early home life helped a lot to put me down this path. Mom is a fast draw with a dictionary and can pimp-slap an encyclopedia (this was before home internet!). My dad’s an electrical engineer and his father a mechanic – so the spirit of tinkering and figuring things out for yourself has certainly come from them.
But, hey, the world’s a complicated place and not a single one of us has a long enough life to acquire all the knowledge needed to understand every aspect of modern life. Science, thankfully, is imbued with checks and balances that ensure that current scientific theory in any scientific field matches observations of the universe. Awesome – I don’t need a degree in astrophysics to know about the Big Bang, I just need to realize the overwhelming majority of people who’ve studied long enough to understand astrophysics are in agreement that that’s the most accurate model for describing the start of the universe. Cool beans – who the fuck am I to question that?
Beastie Boys – Get It Together
Long story short: I’m not going to believe anything anyone says if they can’t bring forth evidence to back up the claim. I can’t afford not to.
* I was out having pizza with Coyote, The Ringmaster and others one day during my last voyage back to the motherland. My uncle walks into the joint and we talk for a bit and then he wanders off. Everybody else around the table is looking at me rather intently, I suddenly realize. With a mix of confusion, trepidation and childlike wonder on his face, The Ringmaster asks me ‘Who was that?’ I explain who that was, and eyes around the table go wide. ‘Dude, that was The King of Regina! He’s fucking famous! Everybody’s been abused by him!’ They all then take turns telling stories about when my uncle’s gone stage-four nuclear on them. After doing as much Googling as I can about The King of Regina, I’m uncertain that my uncle is the same crazy that they’re all thinking of. Not all the stories in the KOTR archive sound like his particular kind of crazy, I don’t think he’s ever had a beard (granted, I’ve been away for a while) and they refer to him occasionally as King David, and David ain’t his nom de plume.
There goes my brush with fame.