“Crazy is like glitter. It sticks to everything, gets everywhere, and you never get rid of it.” – Anonymous (or perhaps I said it first)
Over the past several posts we have been dealing with the primary emotional needs of Identity, Stimulation, and Security. Playwright-turned-anthropologist Robert Ardrey deserves the credit for identifying these three — and I hope you will read or re-read what I have written on the subject. You can start here
In this post, I want to explore the relationship between Identity and Stimulation.
Insert Personality Here
Despite human beings’ capacity for reason, we have abundant evidence that man is far from the rational creature he thinks himself to be. “What evidence,” you say? Look around. Why do women dye their hair colors not found in nature? Why do men wear socks with sandals — or jorts? Why do they grow long beards? Ask more than one and you’ll likely get an answer that is not any more complicated than, “I like it.” As answers go, this isn’t nonsense, but it is hardly empirical.
I submit to you that “liking it” is shorthand for “I want to be noticed.”
What’s crazy is refusing to analyze any behavior to see whether — or not — it makes sense. That is, does it lead in a positive direction? Or, said another way, “If I keep doing this, what will the results be in a year? In ten years? In twenty years?
An important announcement from the poetry corner. I have written a Haiku that help to illustrate the point I’m trying to make. Here it is for your cultural enrichment:
Gen X Angst
Haiku writing youth
I’m a pierced nonconformist
Just like all my friends
-George E. Booth
This being noticed is part of the overlap between Identity and Stimulation. One seeks validation (being noticed favorably) by adopting the dress, manner of speech, and behavior of the favored group. Conversely, one can seek negative attention or signify separateness by cultivating rejection from a disfavored group. In the 1960’s, baby boomers signified their rebellion through long hair, bell bottoms, and not bathing (seriously), signifying their indifference to approval of their parents and grandparents, whom they dubbed, “The Establishment.”
These parents and grandparents sought to maintain the culture, hairstyles, dress, and decorum they had learned on their way to adulthood — with tours through the Great Depression and World War II. The elder cohort thought the young ones were crazy, and staunchly held to their patriotic, straitlaced manners. The younger cohort thought this adherence to tradition was mindless conformity — and they thought it crazy not to embrace new experiences.
If your upbringing included kindergarten, playschool, Sunday school, Vacation Bible School, or arts and crafts, you probably had at least one encounter with glitter. Tiny little squares of colorful, reflective whatever-it-is that added sparkle and shine to our creations. It was fun, interesting, and different, but very hard to control, and nearly impossible to eradicate. I recall finding “clues” in the family car for weeks after coming home with a class project that made use of glue. (I have to give credit to the manufacturer who sought to sell glue with the glitter already in it — much less messy.)
So why do I say crazy is like glitter? In the same way glitter can be fun and novel, crazy people can also be amusing. For a while. But like glitter, most people’s crazy won’t stay where it’s put. Drama leaves the confines where it is interesting and gets everywhere. Depending on the severity of the crazy and the ensuing damage, you may never get rid of it. Most truly crazy people are ultimately way past fun.
What makes crazy so crazy?
I believe it starts with the denial of reality. Most of the crazy in the world betrays a disconnectedness from the world that is. People in groups will seek to sway others by asserting something clearly refutable by evidence. Consumers of these messages — particularly those with no tether to reality and seeking acceptance — go along with it and the sum total of crazy increases. With respect to to those with confusion regarding sex and gender, I have marveled that an entire social order should ignore plain biology to accommodate such a minute sliver of the population. And I am more surprised at the slavish behavior exhibited by publicly traded corporations. Even more surprising is the vitriol aimed at those who assert something as self-evident and simple as the existence of maleness and femaleness. I’m waiting for the denunciations of gender denialism — but I won’t hold my breath.
The second aspect that makes crazy so crazy is the indifference to rules, norms, and mores. “Rules for thee, but not for me,” was the heart of Pharisaic practice. “Rules don’t apply to me” didn’t work so well for them, as I recall. But notice how the crazy people you know regularly flout the written and unwritten rules on the road, in restaurants, and on the job. Our countrymen admire the rascal, the scamp, but it is truly unpleasant to have to work around — or clean up behind — the crazy.
The truly crazy seek to escape consequences. This is in an interesting phenomenon because some of these jokers do seem to get away with it. Facts don’t matter. Right and wrong don’t matter. They won’t get caught. And if they do, nothing bad will happen. In case you’re wondering, this is not the kind of outlook or legacy we encourage here.
Ultimately, this is a form of narcissism/egoism. If I am the only thing in the universe that’s real (as far as my feelings inform me), I can do exactly as I please.
But why do they do it?
I’m so glad you asked! Part of the reason I’ve emphasized identity followed by Truth is to make this next point clearer. People do crazy things because, having abandoned Truth, they do not know who they are or why they are here. This leads to a good deal of experimentation. Since I’m feeling generous, I’ll call it questing.
The quest is to overcome the boredom that a rootless, purposeless life will produce. Think about the worst stereotype of American middle-class consumerism. Glassy-eyed, stoop-shouldered, and paunchy, homo economicus americanus gets up every morning to earn enough money to keep a roof over his head, so he can get up every morning…
This is where the synthetic stimulants enter. These range from television to fantasy sports, to video games, to gambling, to intoxicants, to gossip, to stirring up conflicts among people, to living vicariously through celebrities or even one’s own children. (And yes, porn would be included in this grouping, too.) Not all of these would appeal to every man, but a bored man will be attracted to one or more of them. The goal is to fill the emptiness with experiences, with feelings — even if they aren’t rooted in reality.
I want to be fair and add that leisure time is a blessing, and a measure of our comparative affluence. And Story is an important part of being human. So please understand that I am for wholesome pastimes, just not at the expense of Living and being truly alive.
Contrast fake stimulation with a life of purpose and consequence where every day is vitally important, and the fruit of one’s labor is enhanced by the satisfaction of the tasks completed and delight at the work ahead.
Initiation: getting your question answered
On several occasions, I’ve written about the importance of masculine initiation
, and how I initiated my sons into manhood. I also published my elder son’s account
of his initiation. From this, you might conclude (correctly) that I think this is important. Let me explain why.
In his book Wild at Heart, John Eldredge writes that a man’s foundational question is “Do I have what it takes?” The process of masculine initiation aims to address this question affirmatively. In my sons’ case, I took them backpacking to pose a physical and a psychological challenge whose outcome was not a given. Clearly I wanted them to succeed, and I prepared them and encouraged them, but it was up to each of them to find the resourcefulness and determination to succeed.
A man who never receives an answer to his question will never be settled in his identity.* He may drift from job to job, or from woman to woman. Or he may work far below his potential, or sabotage his own success. All because he is afraid to be exposed as less than a man. This is the realm of the False Self
and this is also the root cause of crazy.
Statistically, a lot of young men are growing up in households without a father, and many of them don’t have a man in their life to show them the ropes. I can’t be everyone’s father or godfather — I can’t really be everyone’s mentor or friend. It isn’t possible. But I write these posts and offer what I have learned so these things don’t have to mystify you.
You may not know your dad, but you have a Father in Heaven who loves you. And He sent me to tell you these things so you can be a man who avoids crazy and lives a life of consequence — of Thriving Authentic Masculinity.
This starts by understanding who God is and who you are in relation to Him. This is the beginning of understanding, of wisdom, and of discovering your identity and purpose. I’ve written many words on these subjects already, so let me encourage you to seek those posts out.
In the meantime, let me give you some advice with regard to crazy:
- Don’t date or marry crazy – She won’t change. But for God, people don’t change.
- Don’t co-sign crazy – It’s bad financial practice, and you’re only enabling more jackassery.
- Don’t make your living from crazy – It’s immoral to sell people the tools of their enslavement
- Avoid other people’s drama – Recognize it for trap it is — especially the classic “Let’s You and Him Fight”
- Don’t try to fix other people’s crazy – Love everyone and live your life. Pray for the crazy ones you know, but unless you’re a trained counselor, leave that to the pros.
- Let God initiate you into manhood – If you didn’t get it from your dad, God wants to do this for you.
- Get some sane friends – encourage each other in your respective missions.
So how about you – In what ways are you giving crazy a wide berth? Add your comments below.
*Girls need their fathers’ blessing, just as surely as boys need theirs. This father-absence or indifference shows up differently in boys and girls, but the result in both is an expression of crazy.