I would hurl words into this darkness and wait for an echo,
and if an echo sounded, no matter how faintly, I would send other words
to tell, to march, to fight,
to create a sense of hunger for life that gnaws in us all.
“Word Salad” is a phrase used to describe a common symptom among schizophrenics- muttering a series of jumbled, illogical words, strung together in a manner that’s often as incoherent for the mentally ill speaker as for the listener. Often, the only connection is rhyme or similar sound among the otherwise disconnected words. It’s peculiar.. I’ve sat and listened to bouts of genuine word salad before. And I wondered at myself, why I would listen attentively to something so blatantly incomprehensible? I think it’s because- Some definitions of word salad mention “seemingly meaningful words that together, mean nothing.” But I consider- what if it could be that in certain instances, it’s the other way around, that seemingly meaningless singular words, when strung together, mean everything? Like there are fragments of truth so small that independently strike no harps, turn on no light bulbs, lead to no epiphanies.. but when joined by a precision so rare that it could only be by accident, they could break down walls and build up confident armies of revelation.
I would imagine that this concept I am pondering is the foundation on which many cultures have based their belief that the mentally ill are actually the most valuable in society, like shamans, deserving the highest place of honor for their power to deliver spiritual enlightenment. Now I’m not suggesting the same extreme- that the mentally ill are like gods- but just that perhaps they are not what our western culture has come to label them..
Those dealing with a mental illness are no doubt dis-eased. But how much of that is due to the actual disease, and how much is due to their treatment by the outside world?
Being simply categorized on the sidelines of mainstream ‘normality’ is one thing, because in the end why should we give a shit what Joe Shmo thinks of us anyhow? But as social ‘placement’ in our culture has come to usher harsh and broad-sweeping stigmas, the impact on those being marginalized has grown: these aren’t just internal thoughts some may hold about ‘the other,’ but instead a projected and felt behavior which tangibly affects the life of that person so different from what’s comfortably acceptable.
Ray McDermott and Herve Varenne wrote an article about the need for change in the mental health system, and in it they highlight that Western society, over time, has developed an extreme emphasis on single-mindedness, focus and hard-work, environmental mastery to achieve success. They bring to light the irony that a culture so set on enabling success, has become a powerfully disabling institution.
I can feel the vigor of my sociology seminar class arguments on social justice brewing back up, so I’ll step back for now.. (My ramblings can tend to get passionately disjointed when not kept in check) It’s just that I began ruminating all this because I’m reading a book on a paranoid schizophrenic who frequently tosses word salad. And it occurred to me how shockingly poetic it is at times.. and poetry, to me, always has the potential to be a conduit of great truth.
So I can't help but wonder if wisdom surprises could rise from a sea of chaotic babbling, about the workings of the world, or about something bigger..
if mental illness could foster unwitting revelations of light..