Open Letter

I’m not a doctor, I don’t need to right about any of this… I just feel it to be true.

Dear friends,

Most of you are crazy.  Not all the way crazy… just a little bit.  Like, 5% at most.


In terms of genetic lotteries, you just hit the neurological Powerball.  To be able to see past the logical straight lines and touch a stray string on the bottom of the tassel of the robe of God for brief milliseconds is a minor miracle.  Appreciate it for what it is.

Don’t be afraid of it.

The fact is, just like most of us are two paychecks (or less) from living on the street, most of us are a bad car accident or illness or other crisis away from mental health issues.  It’s just what comes with the human condition.  Depression affects an astonishing 6 percent of us every year.  That’s nearly 15 million people every year in the United States alone.  You might be heading toward depression right now.  Besides being tenacious, shitty, destructive, and all the other adjectives, depression is a condition that in many cases can pass.  How and when and if it passes is a personal, specific thing and many times you won’t have control over it.  The same goes for mania and other conditions.  Like a wave, it moves on and might return… or not.

Don’t be afraid of it.

People who don’t ever have a problem with mental health in their life are kinda lucky but man… the company you keep as a bonafide crazy person really can’t be beat.  Jimi Hendrix.  James Brown.  Ray Charles.  Nikola Tesla.  Georgia O’Keefe.  Silvia Plath.  Jim Morrison.  Nina Simone. I could name a bunch more, creating the greatest party in the universe, and it would not adequately describe just how much we gain from people who are neurodiverse.  We bring joy and beauty and hope and all the feelings.  We also make the impossible possible with imagination, force of will, and occasionally psychotropic substances.

So when I pick up the paper, read the news online, or pass a TV… and I see someone in crisis who is doing something unthinkable, I feel a worry for that person.  I do not feel this worry just because of the harm that they are doing.  I feel worry because I know that they will be mistreated and in many cases discarded by a society so afraid of its own mind that they relegate its exploration to those they deem madmen, or addicts, or mystics, or learned people who have been in school forever.

In an art class, the teacher described kintsugi as a Japanese art that is often popularly referenced as filling cracks in pottery with gold.  With a look of revulsion, she informed us that it goes so far beyond this and really is more of an external expression of philosophy that treats breakage and repair as part of the history of an object, rather than something to disguise.  This is in line with the Japanese philosophy of wabi-sabi, (in a very basic sense) the embracing of flaws.  Imperfect and incomplete.

I’ve been reading a bit about it and came across this passage:

“Not only is there no attempt to hide the damage, but the repair is illuminated…”

the author goes on to say:

“The vicissitudes of existence over time, to which all humans are susceptible, could not be clearer than in the breaks, the knocks, and the shattering to which ceramic ware is too subject.”

(For more, check out Flickwerk.  You can download it as a .pdf)

I think we need to decide as people who want a better world whether or not we want to carry some of the truly harmful and insidious things from this old one into what we create.  One of those things is the idea that people are permanently broken or dangerous because they, at some point, have hurt or scared or disappointed us.  Maintaining a distance or keeping harm away from each other is vastly different from throwing away the key, and we don’t call it what it is.

I used to think long-term incarceration was a good move because it was cheaper or easier or even safer… but that’s all bullshit.  I know now, in my heart, that many of the people who would put me in a box with no windows for eternity or kill me would do so because they would rather be dead than face their own fragile yet impossibly elastic mind.  I know because I felt the same way but when faced with no other choice, I told myself not to look away.  There was nothing else to see.

I love you, so I feel a duty to tell you the truth.  I’m 15-20 percent crazy, so there’s a good chance that you probably think I am full of shit anyway, but I need you to know that there’s nothing on the other side of the dividing line between madness and everyday life that doesn’t have your face staring right back.  It’s all you.  Sometimes it just breaks through and there’s nothing you can do but look at what is broken by what comes, beautiful and shiny or not at all.  

But you don’t have to face it completely alone.  People will show up with food and water and blankets and a broom for the mess, but only if you wait for them and let them know that you need help.  It might take a long time and they might not do it all the way right.  You won’t be the same afterwards and it might not feel like it once did, but you will still be you.  That never changed.

Don’t be afraid of any of it.  It’s just you.  What would you be if you welcomed what you face?  How do we show up when our cracks aren’t just healed but illuminated?  Who are we when our rough places shine like the dead stars we are formed from?  When the bag of diamonds of our minds are revealed as belonging to us, what light illuminates the dark?

Wabi-sabi as all hell.


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