On a normal day in a normal way, madness would define itself as something so outside of experience that we can’t register it as part of our normality. An outlier. Something that happens to someone else. Something beyond comprehension and needing immediate attention. Something dangerous, crazy, impossible to interpret.
Yet here we all are, sitting in our homes with whomever we live, and going nearly nowhere. Is that madness or what? Not that we feel like we are going mad (we might actually feel this), but that our situation is completely and absolutely mad. A madness that holds us down with its long nail on the end of a pale, slender finger and presses until the blood runs away from the nail and we are surrounded by a ghostly and ghastly whiteness. It pushes inward, threatening a puncture. I don’t even think we know what it would perhaps puncture, but puncture it would and surely that would be bad. Bad for us, but also bad for the world because in the world, we have a role and when we can’t play with our friends in that role, we feel useless and purposeless.
JMG LeClezio said “…the world had gone made, but nothing was of any importance” in his novel Onitsha. This is after the characters have left the wilds of civilized society and traveled into the barbarity of the hinterlands, the jungle where humanity is but a part of things, not a controller of them. Isn’t this what we are right now: just a part of life? And yet, it’s truly what we always are but don’t acknowledge. We are always just a part of this globe we call Earth, just one of millions of organism types plying our time here, using resources, providing resources for others.
In the jungle, the herd is culled. It is shaped and trimmed back by circumstance. Advantages that one has are balanced against advantages others have and the strongest survives. This happens on both a small, local scale and a large, earthy scale. As humans, we apply this process called time which is fully created by us and for us to make sense of and for us. Time exists in ways that pass by, pass through us. We worry about it. What will life be like tomorrow? A week from now? A month from now? One-hundred years in the future, “…as if a moment later it would be too late, as if everything would escape (LeClezio, Onitsha).” It doesn’t matter. Time doesn’t matter. All that matters is existence. Its is measured only in life or death.
Ah, how death chases us, pursues us, frightens us. We avoid facing it because we want to have immortality, to live forever, to be around those others we share life with. Life seems so robust and full until we closely examine it shut into one place. Time stops. We exist in single moments, life, life, life, life the heart beats and pulses. Our world is separate and extreme, divergent, differentiated from other humans. V.S. Naipaul explores this relationship of time, life, and death in his novel Area of Darkness: “So remote her world seemed then, so dead; yet how little time separated her from us (22)” Not really remote, just separate, differentiated. Only when we apply time do we see a scope of separation. We were there the whole time, right next to humanity in China who got next to COVID19 and we are still right there, in China. We are only separated by our measurement mechanism of time which deceives us and pushes us to believe we are alone. We are never alone. Large and small both chase and run from death.