Insanity, I would suggest to you, is an involuntary separation from the implied reality of the social contract. Were you given a wide open road in the middle of nowhere in which to drive which side of the centerline would you stay? The social contract in this country says to you to stay on the right side of the centerline, as opposed to the left side which implies you would be wrong were you to be over on that side. Were you in an empty building would you use the bathroom nearest to you or would you use the one assigned to your gender? If a colleague died and you discovered their password as you were cleaning out their desk would you look through the files on their computer? On a very hot day would you wander around your yard nude in full view of the neighbors?
The social contract changes over time so our concept of what is right and what is wrong changes with it. When I was a child any adult could spank any child. When I was a child people who were black could not eat in the same restaurant as I did. (They could and frequently did cook the food, but they couldn’t eat in the same room with whites) I remember a time when vehicles had to have a yearly inspection sticker and no one dared not get one because there were stiff fines for not having the sticker.
To be a writer of fiction is to voluntarily separate yourself from reality. A writer must be able to create things as they are not and convince people the way things are being written might be untrue and fantastic sounding, but nevertheless perfectly sane inside the context of the story. Yet there is no guarantee of safe passage back to the real world once a writer crosses the Styx. If a writer leaves the social contract behind and invents a new one then that writer is already questioning what is right and what is wrong, and by definition, what is real
Now imagine that your mind is filled with these thoughts, constant, never ending, and sometimes frightening thoughts, each and every one of them preying on some part of reality. Imagine that you know people, and know them very well, each detail of their lives known, and suddenly you remember they are not real at all, but fictional, creations of your mind and no more. Sometimes, when I am not writing, they are hidden from me, as if they are asleep in the next room. At other times it would seem that I could pick up a phone and call, to see what they are doing and when they might come visit.
Then there are times they seem more real than those people with whom I have entered into this social contract with, in reality, such that it is.
We know the contract is not inviolate but we do not acknowledge the reality we create shifts, changes, and on occasion disappears. Yet we are quick to condemn those out of touch with reality. We look upon the mentally fractured as if they too should be able to function within a reality that we create, destroy, and declare inviolate all at the same time. We teach children to train their bodily function around an arbitrary time; they are told to sleep when they are wide awake, they are told to wake when they are sleepy, and they are fed whether or not they are hungry. With this we are teaching them what they perceive is not real, what they feel is not real, what they desire is not real, but rather, reality is something given to us by others, by our parents, society, work, church, friends, family, and the government. We are taught at a young age to act as if what we discover in the world is not reality and as adults we pass that on, as if we cannot remember being young at all.
Creativity, I would suggest to you, is a voluntary separation from the implied reality of the social contract. It is no more and no less a function of the mind that has been truncated very much like our natural ability to navigate in the dark, or to sense the feelings of those around us in the manner in which dogs do. More and more often I am certain the function of the canines is not of security system or alarm devices against cave bears and tigers for ancient humans but as touchstones of reality. What is not real the dogs will not react to at all. These things that the insane and the creative see, and sense, and hear, and feel, are not experienced in the range of canine perception. This is the thing, the thing that will really blow your mind when you think about it; dogs are immune from our loss of reality.
I see things that are not there and in the past month this has gotten worse than normal, if you’ll forgive that expression. The creatures of the periphery are crowding in on me, flashing into bits of my field of vision like mental meteorites. I know them when I see them, but I have to react, I have to look, just in case, but when the dogs are with me I ignore the gremlins. In the presence of the mutts these creatures are damned to the ethereal. Better guardians we do not know, but not for the reasons we have been led to believe. The sounds they make do not touch the ears of the dogs so I know they do not exist. I watched the ears and heads of the dogs for they look at the real, and leave the rest to my senses, and we all sleep better at night for it.
But you know I do not sleep.
This demon haunted existence is not an easy one. There is a reason parents teach their children the reality of the social contract for in that their sanity is safer, their minds more cluttered so as to prevent the weird, and their lives predicable as a calendar. They will not long speak to those not there. They will not linger in the presence of the invisible. They will not chase the leaves of the whirlwinds when they are older.
Creativity, I would suggest to you, is a voluntary separation from the implied reality of the social contract. In finding no peace in that world, I feel obligated to look in the one torn from me so many years ago.