25 December 2011

Madness - the Divinest Sense

(c) photo by khulud kh, all rights reserved

So there’s this writer, her name is Asmahan. She has these characters, who have taken off the page and become real. They go to the café with her and sit right next to her – too close at times, enveloping the space around her. They invade her private moments, even in her most sacred moments of solitude. Most often they don’t listen to her. They even have the audacity to argue with her. But what’s most outrageous is that they tempt her – until she can no longer resist and lets them occupy spaces of her brain – and of her reality. They gradually take over more and more, until she sees Shahd downstairs in the library, sitting there among a group of real-life women. The horror on Asmahan’s face! She looks exactly like Shahd – the hair, the eyes, the color of her skin. Even that mesmerizing movement of her eyelashes – like the flutter of a butterfly! Asmahan blinks once, twice. Moves her head to the left and then to the right to make sure she’s not imagining all of this. But it is her – Shahd from “life in fragments.” It can’t be any other woman. Not here, not like this. Fascinated, she listens to Shahd’s voice, and her words are the script she had written down for her the night before.

That same night, Asmahan steps into her own manuscript, and reality merges with imagination. They become inseparable even in her own mind.

Just the rumblings of a mind on the verge of madness… but then what is madness? Aren’t we all mad in our own ways? And isn’t madness a natural part of our lives? And who defines madness? The meaning is so slippery and elusive, that whenever I think of it, I always come up with Emily Dickinson’s poem “Much Madness is divinest Sense.” I find her words comforting at my most despairing moments, just when I am positive that I will soon cross that thin line separating rational thought from complete madness.

“Much Madness is divinest Sense –
To a discerning Eye –
Much Sense – the starkest Madness –
‘Tis the Majority
In this, as All, prevail –
Assent – and you are sane –
Demur – you’re straightway dangerous –
And handled with a Chain –“

Poem by Emily Dickinson.

(c) all rights reserved to khulud kh (2011)


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