Tuesday, June 28, 2011

"Much Madness is Divinest Sense?" are you crazy or a genius?

things to be considered: The Avalanches "Frontier Psychiatrist" http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qLrnkK2YEcE&ob=av2n

Much of my time in Santa Cruz is spent people watching. Amidst a sea of both crazies and geniuses (mainly crazies hahahah) , it is hard to decipher who is what (people surprise you with really amazing thoughts). If you judge them on how different or outside the norm they are, then all of Santa Cruz is crazy. However this is not true and there is lots of amazing talent here. Over time I have learned to make more keen observations, yet I am still frequently surprised. I could elaborate on this subject for quite some time, but today is about my friend Tom. I work as a barista at a hippie coffee shop where Bob Marley plays on repeat and customers range from well-to-dos to hobos. [It seems like a contradiction, yes, but then again who can resist a hippie speed ball (espresso+weed)?] Many ridiculous/ interesting scenarios occur on a daily basis. Tom came in every day to order his half light-roast half dark-roast organic coffee (which [sidenote] he sweetened with honey. never seen anyone else do that..random..). He was tall and thin, about 55 years old. Every day Tom wore black jeans, a decent button-up shirt with his long-ish gray hair in a ponytail tucked under a crimson beret (sort of a typical look.. he was a mesh of a writer/painter). He would sit outside smoking hand-rolled cigarettes while hand-writing his manuscripts which (from what i saw) was half poetry and half a cultural manifesto. I like Tom; We had many intellectual discussions about life, truth, and human existence (if you didn't already know, i'm a big dork). He's an advocate of the old way of the world, tradition, and form. He gave me some of his work/notes a few times. I won't give my opinion too much because I see where he is coming from but I am just not a huge fan of that style. However I do think it is important to keep it alive. Here is a sonnet thingy from his notes (a social commentary on a historical account. themes on imagery versus truth, manipulation and control, objectification, and criticism of American capitalism.. just the usual afternoon for Tom. he was no genius, but he was very observant and creative):


They didn't hang Geronimo
But they put him in captivity
Shipped him off on a train
To a land far away.

No bullet could kill Geronimo
So they made him a commodity
Tiger of the human race
To his dyin' day.

Yeah, they'd throng to see Geronimo
When they'd get him as a novelty
At an expo or fair
Or to head a parade.

The fiercest of foes, Geronimo
It piqued their curiosity
To see the wildest Indian
That God ever made.

They wanted a piece of Geronimo
So they made him a celebrity
He died with ten grand in the bank
From the profit that he made.

He got the lasting fame, Geronimo
And later on in history
Paratroopers yelled his name
When they jumped out of a plane.

They didn't hang Geronimo.

By Tom R.

One day Tom showed up in half biker half hippie cloths looking whacked out of his mind but also extremely happy. He said was engaged to the daughter of a Native American Chief and he would be moving to a reservation in Arizona as soon as possible. I asked about his get-up and general attitude, and how different he seemed today. He responded, "Ohh yes, Alice, I'm just letting my true colors show." Unlike his usual cool nature, Tom was a whirlwind and left without saying anything. I heard he came back the next day twice as weird, asked for a free coffee, left and never returned.

What do I make of this scenario? His words rang truth to me but his quick turn around sings crazy man. Can you be both? Yes, but where is the line? Van Gogh ripped his own ear off in a fit of madness yet his work is amazing. Is it as Emily Dickinson suggests, that "Much Madness is Divinest Sense"? If 'crazy' only means far enough outside the norm that those who are 'normal' don't get it, then who amongst those people actually have insight? What is the difference in being different and being delusional. I can't be quick to assume either position, not here. Just another day in Santa Cruz.

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