I had a strange dream…
The phantasmagoria of the passing green fields riddled with picket fences and cows grazing the fields pass by at blinding speed. As I hurtled on the autobahn it was hardly the illusion of what sanity is made of. On and on the whoosh of the beautiful fancy passed me by at speeds that seemed unreal that all images stood still momentarily and then with the blink of an eye were gone. And as surely as the speeds tested the Mach number a sudden stop on a country mile brought images of the cows wearing bells clanking their way across the road as the traffic came to a dead stop. The calm within the storm.
The fields stretched far into the distance and there before me was a spectacular image of a beautiful rendering of a castle perched high atop a mountain with sweeping vistas of tall trees.
Was it an illusion? painter’s imagination? Or was it a work of art? Or was it reality?
The castle stood quietly in its cloaked splendor a midst the floating mist of moisture laden clouds, which kissed it gently and with each stroke uncovered more of its majesty. This was the Schloss Neuschwanstein. The beautiful architectural rendering of what has been considered the imagination of a deranged mind. King Ludwig II of the House of Wittelsbach was declared insane for spending the family fortunes in building castles and bringing it to ruin. The “Mad King of Bavaria” was declared insane and deposed. Three days later on 13 June 1886 his body was found in a shallow lake near Munich along with the body of his psychiatrist.
The beautiful castle still stands in all its grandeur. It rises majestically as its turrets prick the clouds trying to shed the truth about its creator. Was King Ludwig II crazy? If he was why is this endearing legacy in the form of such architectural splendor a draw of fancy of every child and adult in the land and across the globe. Some call it architectural fallacy. Some just shake their heads in incredulity, while others shake their heads in awe. But my dream ends there and as I awaken from this strange corpus of mystified wonder, fresh questions arise.
What is mentally insane? Is it the argument about squandering wealth? Was the “Mad King of Bavaria” mad because he loved the architectural challenge of creating such masterpiece as the Schloss Neuschwanstein? Was the dwindling fortunes of a family, the force that invoked the insanity declaration? Was his drowning a suicide or as some now claim it was a murder because of memory-recalled anecdotal evidence that seems to suggest of such a travesty? Whatever caused his demise, it leaves lingering doubts of what was the intent. If you were to venture into the castle’s interior you would find the trappings of a voracious reader fully ensconced in a perfectly royal “reading throne” next to the royal bed overlooking the Bavarian countryside.
The tapestries adorning the walls and the rich texture of thought that seems to inhabit every piece of the furniture in the finished rooms suggest great concert between idea and perfection. The Swan room another fancy of the deposed King suggests his predilection to the beauty of the swans. He loved the image of a swan and everything in the room speaks of it. Was this idiocy, madness or a mind in love with the beauty in nature? If one looks critically at today, some girls are fascinated with princesses, and dress in their make believe land of holding court or some boys swing a 42 inch wooden stick and envision themselves in the trappings of a Yankee stadium galloping across the diamond after hitting the home run to the applause of thousands. Yes we all have dreams, but wherein lies this insanity that doomed the King?
Today the proliferating morass of psychiatric diagnoses fills a 991 page Diagnostics and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders DSM-V book. The most common childhood diagnoses of ADHD and ADD now seem to afflict a large and significant number of adolescents in the U.S. and through the developed countries. Anytime a child is hard for the “busy parent” he or she is rendered as a “case” and stuffed with pills to keep him or her from invading the “calm and quiet” of the parents or teachers who have grown to have a depleting content of patience. In fact the increasing diagnosis is a boon for the mental health and the pharmaceutical industry. A pill and all is quiet for the parent or the teacher to indulge in their fancy. Is that a parental insanity escalated to levels of self-absorption that their mechanics of finding solitude be based on prescribed medication? So where is the true sense of sanity? Is there one? Is the person who fiddles in his pocket to make sure that his car keys are still there, the makings of an obsessive compulsive disorder, therefore a psychiatric conundrum? Is the perfect crease on a pair of pants an obsession in need of a pill? Is the parent’s desire for a successful child a fancy worth putting the weight of adulthood on him or her thus depriving that child of his or her “childhood-ness” an insane proposition invoked by the parent? Where does one or for that matter “who” who can draw the line between the thoughts of a wild imagination and the carefully controlled and constructed mindset of sanctified order?
Mental health issues stemming from “neuro-chemical imbalance” are widely appropriated to a certain population because of their non-conformist behaviors but do these rise to the level of the challenges such as the shock, the stress, the horror of a war in the form of PTSD that need an understanding ear, a steady emotion and potential short term use of medication. When the flights of fancy of an imaginative soul are deemed insanity to prevent cost overruns, or invasion of “quiet time” then something is truly insane.
Do you brush your teeth every morning and before going to bed every night? Is that a ritual of good habit or a compulsion? Do you watch with intense disdain when someone sneezes into their cupped hands rather than in the crook of their elbow? Do you wear gloves to touch all doors, railings, banisters in public places or yearn for a tap with running water to wash your hands afterwards, or look for the ever-present bottle of Purell nearby to ward off the microscopic evils that might rob you of your health? Do you shake hands with people? You see where I am going with this? I once came across a famous female doctor who walked with her hands behind her back. She looked like a duck at times with the arch in her back as her rear end trailed behind. What were the metrics of her “saneness?”
So we come back to my dream once again. Was the “Mad King of Bavaria” really mad or just indulgent of his fancies of perfection and beauty? Was the drive to depose him the arch purpose of the family or the kingdom to preserve the wealth and power of the family and the kingdom? These are difficult questions, but even more difficult is the premise of a wanton approach to label for selfish desires.
Each one of us comes replete with our own baggage of experiences, some experiences are tortured and others are comforting. It is the composite of this collective that makes us who we are. Where in these realms, is the demarcation line between what is and what is not sane? True the ones that have truly lost all temporal sense of existence need help to function. But here again where is that temporal boundary? When the frontal lobe and its cognitive sense of right and wrong, good and evil, yes and no has departed and the parietal lobe of the brain links action to a constant stream of a circular thought devoid of the temporal constraints then one is compelled to visit the malady with all the tools of rational thought and action to correct the imbalance. But what is sane? This question poses many others in our minds. How we answer these and other such questions might then become the defining path for a society. The pathos and ethos contained within the crucible of humanity might just be the elixir of existence and not the vectors between the sane and insane. For instance some would consider the price of this painting at $117 million, insanity. Would you?
We help others not to add to the ritual and decrees of making more use for the help we have created, but for the true sense of lifting another’s life. We do not add to the plethora of psychiatric diagnoses just to pigeonhole another fellow human into a life-long servitude to drug-promoted-mind-control. We live to better each other’s lives and in that we must rest our laurels.