Madness & Sanity

In the following essay, i will examine the terms madness and sanity, their evolutionary backgrounds, whether a harmonious equilibrium between the two is achievable, and the role played by each in our survival as a species.

Sanity, in colloquial sense of the word, means to be in your right mind, conforming to the standards, being a part of the mob and going with the flow. Madness, on the other hand, is being socially aberrant. Wear a suit in mosque, sherwani in x-country and shorts for an interview and you’re already up for the title. To understand this painfully immense pressure one feels about conforming to certain standards of the society, and hence called sane, we will have to delve deep into the secret vaults of history from the point of view of evolution.

Millions of years of evolution have hammered in us human beings, instincts that have helped us fight off extinction. Programmed to protect us in potentially hostile primitive environments, our instincts have managed to steer us clear of the lethal grip of natural selection and ensured our survival as a species. However, the civilized world today has rendered most of these instincts much less useful, if not exhausting. Remember the last time, you walked up the ramp for a performance and you looked pale as ghost. It just so happens that every time your brain detects a fear signal, it draws in all your blood from the skin so as to minimize the blood loss in case of injury. There is no way you can tell your fear instinct that the stage fright is technically different from the fright of a pouncing jaguar; that you are not likely to bleed therefore it should probably stop drawing further blood from your face which is reducing you to a nervous stuttering wreck on the stage. Adhering to the community, just like that, might once have been important for our ancestors to survive. Hunting together, bringing up children and securing a safe habitat were all legitimate needs and community living provided for them well enough and hence embedded itself successfully as a compelling instinct in our nervous systems. After we moved on to cities with governments and sophistiated procedures in place so as to protect us from possible harm, leaving little, if any, job for the instincts to do for our survival, the real conflict started to emerge. There were people who still wanted to pursue the same homosapien-ic life except in a more sophisticated fashion, wearing a bow-tie, cologne and all. There were people, on the other hand, who though appreciated the role community instinct had played thus so far, now wanted to break free of it to allow the current of evolution push them further on. Those who stayed put, they believed, would be those who drowned. The people who upheld this radical idea acquired the title of madmen.

Contrary to the popular belief, true madness is not the absence of sanity. It’s just the triumph over it. You can be a madman if your madness defeats your sanity and is served by it all the same. Once you pull off this balance, evolution will make sure that your children don’t wipe out from Earth as the dinosaurs and mammoths did millions of years ago.

P.S.: I’ll hopefully elucidate the role of love and madness in evolution in a series of posts. I understand that the essay needs more explanation. Please let me know if you find anything that does not make sense to you.


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