When someone acquires a ritual of using certain words in ways that do not make sense, or acquires a ritual of using certain tools in ways that are counter-productive, witnesses regard such rituals as madness. They wonder if the word or tool user is in control of such uses. If the ritual is so nonsensical or counterproductive as to be confusing to witnesses, then they wonder if the users, as medics say, are “afflicted” with a “psychosis” which is said to be “mental illness.” In striking contrast, laymen had their own words to refer to those who seemingly cannot control themselves, such as to have acquired nonsensical or counter-productive rituals. At the side, note the rather long lists of words that have accumulated during the 19th and 20th centuries. Best not to ignore these lists, lest by doing so we are confined to the words used by those who have written of “psychotic afflictions.”
Late in the 18th century the-then medical men were charged with controlling the inmates of what were called madhouses, most of the inmates locked up because of displaying those seemingly mad rituals that confused their witnesses. These medics, later called psychiatrists agreed in mid-20th century to call all forms of madness general medical conditions.
This was a fatal error in choice of words—fatal, that is, in that psychiatrists were no longer schooled in corrective counseling, but rather schooled in prescribing toxic drugs—sedatives, stimulants, tranquilizers, and deliriants.
The Greek word psychotic has left innumerable problems in its wake, all of which are insoluble. The word psychotic translates as much spirit (psych = spirit + otic = much). Any use of the word psychotic cannot be seen as synonymous with any of the words listed at the side, from barmy to zonked and from bats-in-the-belfry to whacked out. The point not to miss is that those who wrote of so-called madness, by using Greek words, unwittingly left insoluble problems in their wake.
Why do those who write of madness speak of a person “having a psychosis” or “being psychotic” thereby pretending that what they say makes sense? Ask them “what is a psychosis?” and find that their answer, if they give one, doesn’t make sense. For example, if they say that a psychosis is a mental illness, note that this expression does not make sense either. After all, substituting nonsense with nonsense doesn’t make sense.
Now, consider the list of phrases at the side, all referring to persons who make a habit of using certain words in a manner that makes no sense. Take the first one, bats in the belfry. Belfry alludes to the head, the bats to foreign agents inside the head interfering with bell sounds, i.e. thoughts. In the second one, bonkers in the conkus, bonkers derives from bonk, a hollow thud, while conkus derives from conch, a mollusk shell, suggesting that one who is bonkers in the conkus is empty headed—strange thoughts versus no thoughts.
Glancing down the list, note that leak in the think tank resembles bonkers in the conkus, while loose in the upper story resembles bats in the belfry. Then there are the offs and outs, each sensible in its own way. In the case of being off one’s hinges, rocker, track, trolley, and wall differs from being off one’s upper story, clump, head, and nut, the latter alluding to containers, the former to controls. In the case of being out of one’s gourd, head, skull, or tree, only the tree does not allude to a container, rather to the brain, with its numberless branches.
As seen in the lists above, many words for mad rituals have accumulated during the last two centuries. Each of us may find some of the words more meaningful than others, probably owing to differences in our character. My guess, by the way, is that we owe most of these words to our Artisan and Rational companions — the tactical Artisans with their ever-ready and unbridled cynicism; the strategic Rationals with their equally ever-ready and equally unbridled skepticism. My other guess is that the diplomatic Idealists and logistical Guardians prefer to gloss over the cynicism and skepticism of the Artisans and Rationals, preferring to stay with the conventional ways of speaking of madness.
My favorite word for mad rituals is bonkers, maybe because it suggests that when a person has been bonked on the head, that person is unable for a while to act sensibly. As for the fifty or so phrases referring to mad rituals, I choose off one’s trolley for the reason that it suggests an electrical disconnect making it possible for one to say things without making sense, which possibility brings me to the major topic — nonsense. There’s more than leaks and looseness and offs and outs in mad rituals. There’s nonsense in them.
All of these words are analogies. It is as-if one has bats in the belfry, bonkers in the conkus, is loose in the upper story, is off one’s clump, hinges, rocker, trolley, and so on, that is, whacked out. Each is mythic, hence, the myth of mental illness.
Of the hundred or so words on the side about nonsense, I’m hard put to choose between balderdash, drivel, and twaddle, though I haven’t a clue as to why these words appeal to me more than the rest.
The two forms of human action — using words and using tools — set such action light years apart from animal action, Even the chimpanzee, a primate that shares almost all of its DNA with humans, can respond to only a few words and handle only a few tools (in trivial ways), despite years of concentrated training. With countless words and tools humans have joined the gods in what they are able to do.
But there’s a catch. Just as humans can make sense in their use of words, so too can they make nonsense. After all, there are many occasions in which it pays to use words and tools in ways that do not make sense, such as in rituals, customs, and ceremonies. Rituals are, after all, are necessary for harmonious social interaction, without which trade, and therefore civilization, would be impossible. But nonsense—from absurdosity to twaddle—that is puzzling to those present on those occasions in which it is presented, though seemingly fortuitous, has a hidden payoff. Thus using words and tools in ways that are nonsensical works not only to maintain harmonious social interaction, but also to avoid being found out as being shamefully unworthy and thus abandoned.
Never doubt that such misuse of words and tools to create nonsensical rituals requires ability, the more the ability the more the avoidance of abandonment and the achievement of escape from responsibility