“Have i gone mad?
I’m afraid so, but let me tell you something, the best people usually are.”
― Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland
Much analysis has been done over the Lewis Carroll classic, but as always in great literature, the simplest quotes are the best; this one from the Mad Hatter.
The madness of this character was said to have come from mercury poisoning; the result of inhaling fumes from the process of turning the fur of small animals into felt used to make hats in the 17 century France. Early dementia was a side effect.
Disney animated the character above, but Carroll’s original image came from a drawing that was based on an eccentric, top hat wearing British furniture dealer, Theophilus Carter.
The Disney film came out in the 1950’s, and of course, was an event. Seeing it through a child’s eyes was quite different than understanding its complexities as an adult; but both were eye-opening for me.
My family was mad. My classmates in catholic school were mad. My neighbors were mad. And, by choices that were deliberate on my part, my friends were most definitely mad.
Narcissists by nature, most of us are drawn to people who are most like our self. That “opposites attract” thing is a bit of a fabrication.
For me, this meant the search was on. I would seek out children who were quiet, shy, introspective, creative and highly intelligent. Social butterflies were out; so were jocks, drama queens, boy crazies, glory seekers, gossip mongers.
But the ones who were a little crazy; those were special, and I could usually pick them out of a crowd, even at a very early age. Those were the ones who didn’t live the Ozzie and Harriet lifestyle. Their families had issues; and they weren’t afraid to talk about it.
They, like me, were often sad, even depressed. They also were extremely funny, perhaps to mask the sadness. They were the kids who played “school” while others picked sides for baseball. They gathered books and set up a neighborhood library to share. They took music lessons; piano, violin, accordion, not the cool instruments that would get them into Marching Band. They drew, and painted, and wrote primitive poetry; all reflecting the turmoil of their young lives. They wrote and acted out plays for the same reason; giving a voice to subjects that were otherwise too painful to discuss.
They were described as eccentric, weird, odd, anti-social, cumbersome, awkward, loners.
I was drawn to them like a magnet.
As an adult, little has changed. I can size people up within the first few minutes of a conversation; coming on a bit intense for most folks. I look for the crazy. I seek it out. I usually find it; and the friendships last a lifetime.
It’s a mad world, after all. I’m happy to be a part of it; mercury not included.