The Bridge Between Insanity and Genius

The line between genius and insanity arguably does not exist. This is not just a cliche, I would argue the concept of genius and insanity are inherently linked and often congruent. Of course I should be more clear about what I mean by insanity. Sanity, reason, rationality, calculus all require some sort of pattern. Some sort of schema or framework into which we fit sensory data, process it, and give some sort of output. There is some sort of order to how input is processed into output with sanity. This order could manifest itself in the human experience, an autistic brain, a computer, or even a calculator. This framework can, of course, change. A complex adaptive system would not be adaptive without that possibility. However, at any given instant, there is some sort of internally consistent framework that processes raw data into output. Insanity, on the other hand, is total randomness, nonsense, gibberish. There is no pattern to insanity, no cogent consistent way of fitting data into some sort of framework that gives output. There is no real connection between input and output in true insanity. Output can come out of a vacuum and the same input can yield different outputs.
Now, Genius must be transcendental, it must completely leave any existing frameworks of thought. I would argue that a true genius must enter insanity, a conceptual vacuum, for a period of time to create from scratch. This was a convenient epiphany to come to in the midst of a mental hospital.
If you want to do some exploring in a place like Ramapo Ridge you need to be careful. You never know how lucid a given patient is. They could be telling you about their home country one moment and speaking in gibberish or even slapping you the next. From second to second, minute to minute, hour to hour, and even day to day, their sanity can shift around. It’s often tough to get a handle on how high functioning a given patient is especially while they are undergoing a treatment arc. I remember talking to one patient who was clearly manic and was rapidly verbalizing loosely related thoughts. It was like a verbal Rorschach ink blot. I could see meaning in it if I remembered many of the different thoughts and rearranged the order they were verbalized in or saw the big picture of what she was saying. Then again, it could just be nonsense. It reminded me of highly abstract art. Speaking of which, as I looked down at what she was scrawling while talking to me my jaw literally dropped and I sat down to get a better look. It was so intricate, almost fractal. The geometries in this line drawing were woven together like the notes of a Phillip Glass symphony. She drew it in the five minutes I was talking to her. I couldn’t believe it was done by human hands. I turned the paper around and looked at it, I held it further away from my eyes. “Ahh, it’s a bird.” I said. “A cuckoo bird” she replied with a goofy smile. I just asked her to keep drawing and watched. I didn’t really care whether she was insane or a genius.


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