Who is mad?

Who is mad? Are the normal people mad or are the mad people mad?

Ahhhhh my good friends, the beauty of travelling, the mind is free to wander and try and solve the world’s mysteries. This is what I love about travelling, the chance to step back from the real world and take time to yourself and think about this wonderful ride of life we are on and the crazy world within which we reside.

What has fuelled the fire of this post? I have just finished reading ‘Veronika decides to die’ by Paulo Coelho the well known Brazilian philosopher/author.

The book is set in a Slovenian mental institution and the main character is Veronika. She is a young attractive girl that tried to commit suicide but was unsuccessful. She was then put in a mental institution where she finds out she only has 5 days to live due to a heart problem. Then the book shows how she regains her love for life and will to live. Sorry, I hope this doesn’t give it away too much if you wanting to read it.

But to me the underlying theme of the book was, who is mad? Are the “mad” people in the hospital mad because they do and say what they want, or are the people in the “real” world that conform to the societal pressures and live life the way it is “supposedly” meant to be lived the mad ones?

Here’s a little excerpt from the book, where the doctor is talking to Veronika about reality and uses his tie as an example:

Veronika asks, ‘What is reality?’

Dr Igor replies, ‘It’s whatever the majority deems it to be. It’s not necessarily the best or the most logical, but it’s the one that has become adapted to the desires of society as a whole. You see this thing I’ve got round my neck?’

‘You mean your tie?’

‘Exactly. Your answer is the logical, coherent answer an absolutely normal person would give: it’s a tie! A madman, however, would say that what I have round my neck is a ridiculous, useless bit of coloured cloth tied in a very complicated way, and which makes it harder to get air into your lungs and difficult to turn your neck. I have to be careful when I’m anywhere near a fan, or I could be strangled by this bit of cloth.

‘If a mad person were to ask me what this tie is for, I would have to say, absolutely nothing. It’s not even purely decorative, since nowadays it’s become a symbol of slavery, power, aloofness. The only really useful function a tie serves is the sense of relief when you get home and take it off; you feel as if you’ve freed yourself from something, though quite what you don’t know.

‘But does that sense of relief justify the existence of ties? No. Nevertheless, if I were to ask a madman and a normal person what this is, the sane person would say: a tie. It doesn’t matter who’s correct, what matters is who’s rights.’

‘So just because I gave the right name to a bit of coloured cloth you conclude that I’m not mad.’