True insanity has no redeeming qualities. There are several distinct kinds of madness, all of them ugly and heartbreaking.
The worst thing about it is the lunatic more often than not regards the lunacy as virtue.
The late Allen Ginsberg began his celebrated poem "Howl" with the words, "I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by madness." So have I, Allen, and so have all of us survivors.
The best minds, along with the worst, have broken under the pressure and despair of modern life. A very bright guy I've known forever has become gradually over the years so obsessed with shining and polishing already immaculate porcelains and stainless steel fixtures that thieves can rummage around in his house taking whatever they want, and a couple have already done so.
I haven't known the brilliant and exceptionally articulate Jewish man from Philadelphia as long as I have the sink polisher, but we go back 30 years, so I've witnessed the entire Odyssey of his descent into belief in bizarre forms of fascist fanatacism and fundamentalist Christianity, the diseased twins of contemporary American culture. In his case, I think it was mostly the heartbreak of divorce and family dissolution that drove him around the bend.
I also have a long time friend and associate who has made himself a prisoner of Beckistan, and subscribes to all the craziness and paranoia the prophet Beck barfs out in daily radio spasms. There's a real potential for violence among them, and I don't get too close.
When I was very young, I had egotistical ambition, and hoped to do great things. Events of the past few days ought to have convinced even the most skeptical among us that the world has become unpredictably dangerous, in ways that can drive people nuts. I've reached the point where I believe that maintaining one's sanity in this environment is a great accomplishment. But who am I to claim to be sane?