Photo: Rodney SmithThroughout its history, mankind has attempted to reduce all the diversity of life to some established norm once and for all. The problem is that it was the attempts to fit a person into the Procrustean framework of the norm that ended in the darkest madness.
It is also true that the so-called. “Abnormality” – primarily mental – frightens. “God forbid me to go crazy” – these words of Pushkin are very revealing. To be abnormal means to be an outcast, to fall into the darkness of illness and helplessness. Empathy at best, forced isolation at worst. That’s all the options.
But this is a veil, and behind the veil something else was happening. Ever since the earliest steps of human culture, strangeness and madness have been considered sacred. Plato wrote about divine insanity as a condition for penetration into the truth. You can also recall the mystics of the Middle Ages and the Renaissance – for most of them they were crazy. We can recall the great madmen – Nietzsche, Dostoevsky, mathematician Georg Cantor, James Joyce, Antonin Artaud, Virginia Woolf, the creator of game theory John Nash.
What is called “abnormality” allowed and allows you to go beyond the known, to see the usual reality in a new light. I will give just one example: Georg Cantor created the theory of transfinite numbers precisely during the period of attacks of schizophrenia. Imagine what would have happened if he had been treated successfully? The tragedy that Chekhov perfectly described in The Black Monk could play out: the main character was cured of insanity, but at the same time he lost his individuality, lost the most important meanings transmitted to him in a hallucinatory form.
In the end, it was only a matter of time before the question appeared – what is the norm? Who and when set the standard, and even the universal one? In the 60s of the last century, an antipsychiatry movement emerged, one of the founders of which was the psychiatrist and philosopher Ronald Laing (although he considered the term “antipsychiatry” inaccurate).
Thus, the American psychiatrist Thomas Szasz, who is one of the prominent figures in antipsychiatry, in his work “The Myth of Mental Illness” stated that mental illness is not a real thing but only a concept developed by our culture.
What is the norm for? For only one purpose – to create a stable and convenient human community for the existence of most individuals. True, there are nuances here – for most average individuals. Of course, without the fulfillment of this goal, the existence of people is difficult. This is a kind of stationary foundation, without this basis it is difficult, like a house without a basement.
But there is a much more significant thing – this is development and a breakthrough into the unknown. As a matter of fact, this is what I would call a genuine, full-fledged human life. But this breakthrough has a price and is quite high – it is extremely difficult to live balancing on the border with nothing, or chaos. An invisible but practically insurmountable wall is formed between those who are beyond the norm and everyone else.
It is practically impossible to return the “abnormal” to the ordinary world, it is tantamount to killing their uniqueness, i.e. death as a person. Of course, help is needed when such “white crows” cannot cope with their gift, which is also a curse. But help is very delicate, reasonable, based on the understanding of the highest value of what is outside the norm. And this requires civilization to reach a new level of humanism.