It's a legitimate point of view. It's the lifeboat problem. If you get too involved with too many people with too many problems they drag you under. You don't save them. They sink you.
Of course she's unimportant. Of course she's a waste of time. She's causing an interruption of other more important purposes in life. No one admits it, but that's really the reason the insane get locked up. They're disgusting people you want to get rid of but can't. It's not just that they have absurd ideas that nobody else believes. What makes them 'insane' is that they have these ideas and are a nuisance to somebody else.
The only thing that's illegitimate is the cover-up, the pretense that you're trying to help them by getting rid of
them. But really there was no way Lila was going to sink him. She was just a nuisance now, and he could handle that. Maybe that's what the light was trying to tell him. He had no choice but to try to help her, nuisance or not. Otherwise he would just injure himself. You can't just run off from other people without injuring yourself too.
Well, he thought . . . she's either come to the best possible person or to the worst possible person. No way yet to know which.
He rolled over and lay quietly.
He knew he had heard that talk of hers before, that style, and now he remembered some of the people he had talked to in the insane asylum. When people are going insane they tend to get very ingenuous like that.
. . . What did he remember? It all seemed so long ago.
Aunt Ellen. When he was seven.
There was a noise in the downstairs in the dark. His parents thought it was a burglar, but it was Ellen. Her eyes were wide. Some man was chasing her, she said. He was trying to hypnotize her and do things to her.
Later, at the asylum Phaedrus remembered her pleading, 'I'm all right. I'm all right! They're just keeping me here when I know I'm all right.'
Afterward his mother and her sisters had cried as they left. But they didn't see what he saw.
He never forgot what he saw, that Ellen wasn't frightened of the insanity. She was frightened of them.
That was the hardest thing to deal with during his own commitment. Not the insanity. That came naturally. The hardest thing to deal with was the righteousness of the sane.
When you're in agreement with the sane they're a great comfort and protection, but when you disagree with them it's another matter. Then they're dangerous. Then they'll do anything. The sinister thing that struck the most fear in him was what they'd do in the name of kindness. The ones he cared about most and who cared about him most suddenly, all of them, turned against him the same way they had against Ellen. They kept saying, 'There's no way we can reach you. If only we could make you understand.'
He saw that the sane always know they are good because their culture tells them so. Anyone who tells them otherwise is sick, paranoid, and needs further treatment. To avoid that accusation Phaedrus had had to be very careful of what he said when he was in the hospital. He told the sane what they wanted to hear and kept his real thoughts to himself.
He turned back again. This pillow was like a rock. She had all the good pillows up there. No way to get one now . . . It didn't matter.
That was what was wrong with making a film about his book. You can't film insanity.
Maybe if, during the show, the whole theater collapsed and the audience found themselves among the stars with just space all around and no support, wondering what a stupid thing this is, sitting here among the stars watching this film that has nothing to do with them and then suddenly realizing that this film is the only reality there is and that they had better get interested in it because what they see and what they are is the same thing and once it stops they will stop too . . .
That's it. Everything! Gone!!
And then after a while this dream of some kind going on, and them in it.
That's the way it was. He'd gotten so used to being in this dream called 'sanity' he hardly ever thought about it any more. Just once in a while, when something like this reminded him of it. Now he could see the light just rarely, once in a while, like tonight. But back then the light had been everything.
It wasn't that any particular thing looked different. It was that the whole context of everything was completely different although it contained the same things.
He remembered a metaphor that had occurred to him of a bug that had been crawling around in some smelly sock all his life and now someone or something had turned the sock inside out. The terrain he covered, the details of his life, were all the same, but now somehow everything seemed open and free and all the horrible confining smell of everything was gone.
Another metaphor that had occurred to him was that he'd been on a tight-rope all of his life. Now he'd fallen off and found that instead of crashing he was flying, a strange new talent he never knew he had.
He remembered how he kept to himself the feeling of exhilaration, of old mysteries being solved and new mysteries being explored. He remembered how it seemed to him that he hadn't entered any cataleptic trance. He had fallen out of one. He was free of a static pattern of life he'd thought was unchangeable.
The boat rocked a little and he became aware again of where he was. Crazy. He was going to be insane again if he didn't get some sleep. Too much chaos . . . streets, noises, people he hadn't seen for more than a year, Robert Redford, suddenly juxtaposed against all this boat background . . . and now this Lila business on top of it all. Too much.
. . . It all keeps changing, changing, changing. He'd wanted not to get stuck in some static pattern, but this was too fluid. There ought to be some halfway mixture of chaos and stability. He was getting too old for all this.
Maybe he should read for a while. Here he was, at a dock, all plugged into 120-volt power for the first time in weeks and he hadn't enjoyed it once. He could read all the new mail. That would calm him down, maybe.
After a while he got up, got the 120-volt reading lamp out of its bin, plugged it in and switched it. It didn't work. Probably the power line was disconnected at the dock. That always seemed to happen. It was cold in here too. He would have to get the fire going again.
He put his trousers and sweater on, got a flashlight and a voltmeter from the tool box and opened the hatch to fix the light.
Outside, the rain had stopped but the sky was still overcast and reflecting the lights of the city. The rain would continue later, maybe. He'd find out in the morning.
On the dock he saw his electric cord was plugged in. He went over to its post, unplugged it and substituted voltmeter leads. No electricity there.
It wasn't so good, he supposed, to stand barefoot on a wet dock checking 120-volt circuits. He opened a cover on one side of the post and found it, a switch that, sure enough, was 'OFF'. They always do that to you. When he turned it on, the voltmeter showed 114 volts.
Back in the boat the lamp worked too. He got some alcohol and restored the fire in the stove.
He guessed he didn't want to read the mail yet. That took special concentration. After hundreds of fan letters saying almost identical things it got harder and harder to read them with a fresh mind. More of the celebrity problem, and he didn't want to get into that any more today.
There were those books he'd bought. He could read them. One of the disadvantages of this boat life is you don't get to use public libraries. But he had found a bookstore with an old two-volume biography of William James that should hold him for a while. Nothing like some good old 'philosophology' to put someone to sleep. He took the top volume out of the canvas bag, climbed into the sleeping bag and looked at the book's cover for a while.
He liked that word 'philosophology.' It was just right. It had a nice dull, cumbersome, superfluous appearance that exactly fitted its subject matter, and he'd been using it for some time now. Philosophology is to philosophy as musicology is to music, or as art history and art appreciation are to art, or as literary criticism is to creative writing. It's a derivative, secondary field, a sometimes parasitic growth that likes to think it controls its host by analyzing and intellectualizing its host's behavior.
Literature people are sometimes puzzled by the hatred many creative writers have for them. Art historians can't understand the venom either. He supposed the same was true with musicologists but he didn't know enough about them. But philosophologists don't have this problem at all because the philosophers who would normally condemn them are a null-class. They don't exist. Philosophologists, calling themselves philosophers, are just about all there are.
You can imagine the ridiculousness of an art historian taking his students to museums, having them write a thesis on some historical or technical aspect of what they see there, and after a few years of this giving them degrees that say they are accomplished artists. They've never held a brush or a mallet and chisel in their hands. All they know is art history.
Yet, ridiculous as it sounds, this is exactly what happens in the philosophology that calls itself philosophy. Students aren't expected to philosophize. Their instructors would hardly know what to say if they did. They'd probably compare the student's writing to Mill or Kant or somebody like that, find the student's work grossly inferior, and tell him to abandon it. As a student Phaedrus had been warned that he would 'come a cropper" if he got too attached to any philosophical ideas of his own.
Literature, musicology, art history and philosophology thrive in academic institutions because they are easy to teach. You just Xerox something some philosopher has said and make the students discuss it, make them memorize it, and then flunk them at the end of the quarter if they forget it. Actual painting, music composition and creative writing are almost impossible to teach and so they barely get in the academic door. True philosophy doesn't get in at all. Philosophologists often have an interest in creating philosophy but, as philosophologists, they subordinate it, much as a literary scholar might subordinate his own interest in creative writing. Unless they are exceptional they don't consider the creation of philosophy their real line of work.
As an author, Phaedrus had been putting off the philosophology, partly because he didn't like it, and partly to avoid putting a philosophological cart before the philosophical horse. Philosophologists not only start by putting the cart first; they usually forget the horse entirely. They say first you should read what all the great philosophers of history have said and then you should decide what you want to say. The catch here is that by the time you've read what all the great philosophers of history have said you'll be at least two hundred years old. A second catch is that these great philosophers are very persuasive people and if you read them innocently you may be carried away by what they say and never see what they missed.
Phsdrus, in contrast, sometimes forgot the cart but was fascinated by the horse. He thought the best way to examine the contents of various philosophological carts is first to figure out what you believe and then to see what great philosophers agree with you. There will always be a few somewhere. These will be much more interesting to read since you can cheer what they say and boo their enemies, and when you see how their enemies attack them you can kibitz a little and take a real interest in whether they were right or wrong.
With this technique you can approach someone like William James in a much different way than an ordinary philosophologist would. Since you've already done your creative thinking before you read James, you don't just go along with him. You get all kinds of fresh new ideas by contrasting what he's saying with what you already believe. You're not limited by any dead-ends of his thought and can often see ways of going around him. This was occurring in what Phaedrus had read so far. He was getting a definite impression that James' philosophy was incomplete and that the Metaphysics of Quality might actually improve on it. A philosophologist would normally be indignant at the impertinence of someone thinking he could improve on the great Harvard philosopher, but James himself, to judge from what Phsdrus had read so far, would have been very enthusiastic about the effort. He was, after all, a philosopher.
Anyway, the reason Phaedrus bought these books on James was that it was necessary to bone up a little in order to protect his Metaphysics of Quality against attack. So far he had pretty much ignored the philosophologists and they had pretty much returned the compliment. But with this next book he was unlikely to be so lucky, since a metaphysics is something anyone can pick to pieces. Some of them, at least, would be at it, picking and sneering in the time-honored tradition of literary critics, musicologists, and art historians, and he had better be ready for them.
A review of his book in the Harvard Educational Review had said that his idea of truth was the same as James. The London Times said he was a follower of Aristotle. Psychology Today said he was a follower of Hegel. If everyone was right he had certainly achieved a remarkable synthesis. But the comparison with James interested him most because it looked like there might be something to it.
It was also very good philosophological news. James is usually considered a very solid mainstream American philosopher, whereas Phaedrus' first book had often been described as a 'cult' book. He had a feeling the people who used that term wished it was a cult book and would go away like a cult book, perhaps because it was interfering with some philosophological cultism of their own. But if philosophologists were willing to accept the idea that the Metaphysics of Quality is an offshoot of James' work, then that 'cult' charge was shattered. And this was good political news in a field where politics is a big factor.
In his undergraduate days Phaedrus had given James very short shrift because of the title of one of his books: The Varieties of Religious Experience. James was supposed to be a scientist, but what kind of scientist would pick a title like that? With what instrument was James going to measure these varieties of religious experience? How would he empirically verify his data? It smelt more like some Victorian religious propagandist trying to smuggle God into the laboratory data. They used to do that to try to counteract Darwin. Phaedrus had read early nineteenth-century chemistry texts telling how the exact combination of hydrogen and oxygen to produce water told of the wondrous workings of the mind of God. This looked like more of the same.
However, in his rereading of James, he had so far found three things that were beginning to dissolve his early prejudice. The first wasn't really a reason but was such an unlikely coincidence Phaedrus couldn't get it out of his mind. James was the godfather of William James Sidis, the child prodigy who could speak five languages at the age of five and who thought colonial democracy came from the Indians. The second was a reference to James' dislike of the dichotomy of the universe into subjects and objects. That, of course, put him automatically on the side of Phaedrus' angels. But the third thing, which might also seem irrelevant, but which was doing more than anything else to dissolve Phaedrus' early prejudice, was an anecdote James told about a squirrel.
James and a group of friends were on an outing somewhere and one of them chased the squirrel around a tree. The squirrel instinctively clung to the opposite side of the tree and moved so that as the man circled the tree the squirrel also circled it on the opposite side.
After observing this, James and his friends engaged in a philosophic discussion of the question: did the man go around the squirrel or didn't he? The group broke into two philosophical camps and Phaedrus didn't remember how the argument was resolved. What impressed him was James' interest in the question. It showed that although James was no doubt an expert philosophologist (certainly he had to be to teach the stuff at Harvard) he was also a philosopher in the creative sense. A philosophologist would have been mildly contemptuous of such a discussion because it had no 'importance,' that is, no body of philosophical writings existed about it. But to a creative philosopher like James the question was like catnip.
It had the smell of what it is that draws real philosophers into philosophy. Did the man go around the squirrel or didn't he? He was north, south, east and west of the squirrel, so he must have gone around it. Yet at no time had he ever gone to the back or to the side of the squirrel. That squirrel could say with absolute scientific certitude, 'That man never got around me.'
Who is right? Is there more than one meaning of the word 'around'? That's a surprise! That's like discovering more than one true system of geometry. How many meanings are there and which one is right?
It seems as though the squirrel is using the term 'around' in a way that is relative to itself but the man is using it in a way that is relative to an absolute point in space outside of the squirrel and himself. But if we dop the squirrel's relative point of view and we take the absolute fixed point of view, what are we letting ourselves in for? From a fixed point in space every human being on this planet goes around every other human being to the east or west of him once a day. The whole East River does a half-cartwheel over the Hudson each morning and another one under it each evening. Is this what we want to mean by 'around'? If so, how useful is it? And if the squirrel's relative point of view is false, how useless is it?
What emerges is that the word 'around,' which seems like one of the most clear and absolute and fixed terms in the universe suddenly turns out to be relative and subjective. What is 'around' depends on who you are and what you're thinking about at the time you use it. The more you tug at it the more things start to unravel. One such philosophic tugger was Albert Einstein, who concluded that all time and space are relative to the observer.
We are always in the position of that squirrel. Man is always the measure of all things, even in matters of space and dimension. Persons like James and Einstein, immersed in the spirit of philosophy, do not see things like squirrels circling trees as necessarily trivial, because solving puzzles like that are what they're in philosophy and science for. Real science and real philosophy are not guided by preconceptions of what subjects are important to consider.
That includes the consideration of people like Lila. This whole business of insanity is an enormously important philosophical subject that has been ignored — mainly, he supposed, because of metaphysical limitations. In addition to the conventional branches of philosophy - ethics, ontology and so on - the Metaphysics of Quality provides a foundation for a new one: the philosophy of insanity. As long as you're stuck with the old conventions, insanity is going to be a 'misunderstanding of the object by the subject.' The object is real, the subject is mistaken. The only problem is how to change the subject's mind back to a correct comprehension of objective reality.
But with a Metaphysics of Quality the empirical experience is not an experience of 'objects.' It's an experience of value patterns produced by a number of sources, not just inorganic patterns. When an insane person - or a hypnotized person or a person from a primitive culture - advances some explanation of the universe that is completely at odds with current scientific reality, we do not have to believe he has jumped off the end of the empirical world. He is just a person who is valuing intellectual patterns that, because they are outside the range of our own culture, we perceive to have very low quality. Some biological or social or Dynamic force has altered his judgment of quality. It has caused him to filter out what we call normal cultural intellectual patterns just as ruthlessly as our culture filters out his.
Obviously no culture wants its legal patterns violated, and when they are, an immune system takes over in ways that are analogous to a biological immune system. The deviant dangerous source of illegal cultural patterns is first identified, then isolated and finally destroyed as a cultural entity. That's what mental hospitals are partly for. And also heresy trials. They protect the culture from foreign ideas that if allowed to grow unchecked could destroy the culture itself.
That was what Phaedrus had seen in the psychiatric wards, people trying to convert him back to 'objective reality.' He never doubted that the psychiatrists were kind people. They had to be more than normally kind to stand that job. But he saw that they were representatives of the culture and they were always required to deal with insanity as cultural representatives, and he got awfully tired of their interminable role-playing. They were always playing the role of priests saving heretics. He couldn't say anything about it because that would sound paranoiac, a misunderstanding of their good
intentions and evidence of how deep his affliction really was.
Years later, after he was certified as 'sane,' he read 'objective' medical descriptions of what he had experienced, and he was shocked at how slanderous they were. They were like descriptions of a religious sect written by a different, hostile religious sect. The psychiatric treatment was not a search for truth but the promulgation of a dogma. Psychiatrists seemed to fear the taint of insanity much as inquisitors once feared succumbing to the devil. Psychiatrists were not allowed to practice psychiatry if they were insane. It was required that they literally did not know what they were talking about.
To this, Phaedrus supposed, they could counter that you don't have to be infected with pneumonia in order to know how to cure it and you don't have to be infected with insanity to know how to cure it either. But the rebuttal to that goes to the core of the whole problem. Pneumonia is a biological pattern. It is scientifically verifiable. You can know about it by studying the pneumococcus bacillus under a microscope.
Insanity on the other hand is an intellectual pattern. It may have biological causes but it has no physical or biological reality. No scientific instrument can be produced in court to show who is insane and who is sane. There's nothing about insanity that conforms to any scientific law of the universe. The scientific laws of the universe are invented by sanity. There's no way by which sanity, using the instruments of its own creation, can measure that which is outside of itself and its creations. Insanity isn't an 'object' of observation. It's an alteration of observation itself. There's no such thing as a 'disease' of patterns of intellect. There's only heresy. And that's what insanity really is.
Ask, 'If there were only one person in the world, is there any way he could be insane?' Insanity always exists in relation to others. It is a social and intellectual deviation, not a biological deviation. The only test for insanity in a court of law or anywhere else is conformity to a cultural status quo. That is why the psychiatric profession bears such a resemblance to the old priesthoods. Both use physical restraint and abuse as ways of enforcing the status quo.
This being so, it follows that the assignment of medical doctors to treat insanity is a misuse of their training. Intellectual heresy is not really their business. Medical doctors are trained to look at things from an inorganic and biological perspective. That's why so many of their cures are biological: shock, drugs, lobotomies, and physical restraints.