We think of "sane" and "insane" as mutually exclusive, but mounting evidence brings me always closer to the uncomfortable conclusion that sanity seems, most often, dependent upon the circumstances and the subjects being considered. Very many people - the majority, it seems - are quite sane very much of the time, and completely irrational on select subjects.
This bothers me much more than you might actually believe.
Insanity / irrationality is the only thing that really scares me. In fact, my affect is flat enough in a great many circumstances that I'm not entirely sure I know what fear is... (Read: "There is something wrong with the way my mind/body processes threats." not "I am Wonder Woman."(1))
I have an appropriate respect for heights or speed or other potentially dangerous things or situations, but none of them scare me.
I'm fine with spiders & snakes, I'm not afraid of ghosts, vampires, zombies, werewolves, god, hell, boats, airplanes, heights, speed, fire, acid, or baby shit... I've run into the proverbial burning structure to save a stranger, and I've faced "certain" death, trying to prevent a pahfactly hay-ooge explosion and yelling loudly to warn others to run away. I've been in car wrecks, faced a plane crash, chased a tornado, been jumped, blindsided, threatened, whacked with a stick, had knives pulled on me, and guns pointed at me, and handled all of those situations fine... But crazy people and irrationality kinda spook me. >.>;;
When someone is so visibly angry that they cannot control themselves, it makes me as uncomfortable as hell, because I simply cannot imagine the sensation, and I have no idea what's going to happen next... It's all I can do to not consider the person in question effectively a rabid animal and move to "put them down".
Same with people who are so excited or happy or "jazzed" that they don't seem to have rational control over themselves.
I'm perfectly ok with zombies. As I mentioned above, even assuming they were real, the idea doesn't scare me a bit... But the people in the previous two paragraphs... I think of them the same way 'normal' people think of zombies, if they were real. You think I'm joking. I'm not.
I've been in situations where I have to raise my voice to be heard, but so far, only two people -in the world- in my life's experience, have the ability to make me "angry" enough to raise my voice, and it's the single most uncomfortable feeling I have ever experienced... I can't eat or sit still for hours afterward...
The idea of living in a world where most people experience that kind of irrational anger quite often is approximately as attractive to me as the idea of shoving double-edged razor blades up my ass with my bare finger-tips.
And then, you get into what I consider much more dangerous, much more troubling irrationalities... Anger, after all, is probably just varying levels of hormones and biological chemicals combined with poor self control behaviour learned early in life. The other stuff, to me, speaks to how a person actually -thinks-... How the machinery of their brain functions.
Imagine living with someone with whom you simply never know how they're going to react... One day you might be able to play chess with them or enjoy a movie, the next day they want to bite off your fingers or paint the walls with their own excrement.
I suspect that most people simply can't understand / accept this, but certain kinds of "normal human irrationality" has almost exactly this effect on me. I just don't really know, deep down, if so-and-so is going to tell me about the tacos she had yesterday, or bark like a baboon and throw shit at passing cars.
And what makes it even scarier, to me, is that - in what seems to be an outright survival mechanism, because you just can't be completely afraid 100% of the time that everyone around you is batshit crazy dangerous - I effectively kind of forget that they're crazy, until they say something absolutely loopey to remind me... Then I have this sensation like... I don't know, exactly. Like, if you were walking along enjoying a book, really absorbed, and then look up to realize that you're not only completely lost, but also deep in Lion Country.
What if you had this friend - maybe close enough that you live with them... And just... I mean... Perfectly normal, some very high percentage of the time. You watch TV, share meals, talk about books, take walks together, etc.
But, every now and then, they say something like "The toaster-oven made the apple tree blossom today." or "I'll be going to dinner with Johnny Appleseed next week." and they're absolutely serious... That wouldn't bother you? Make you a bit nervous?
It makes me nervous. It does a good deal more than make me nervous, actually... If I allow myself to think about it too much, it makes me very uncomfortable. It makes me so uncomfortable that there's really little to no point in my trying to express to you how uncomfortable it makes me.
There are things you really just can't talk about. People will wonder about your (my) sanity... Your (my) humanity...
The comedian Louis CK has this bit where he wonders why / how people get so upset at the existence of homosexuals... Like they're just somewhere going "Oh... People are gay! Dammit!"
And yet, the existence of these very normal irrationalities has a similar effect on me. Knowing there are religious people (as an easy if overused example, by no means the only one) - and in such pahfactly hay-ooge quantities, at that - puts me in this mood, somewhere between suicidal and homicidal.
It's not about hatred, it's not about wanting them to change. It's about, deep down, really not trusting them. I really don't like eggplant, but I'd have absolutely zero problem with the world being 70-90% eggplant lovers.
Eggplant lovers aren't irrational. And, too, they almost never burn people at the stake for not liking aubergines... But, mostly, it's that they're not irrational.
Because, what it all comes down to, for me, is if 70-90% of the people in the world can't manage to be rational about this one specific thing... How do I know they can be or will be rational about any other specific thing when it matters?
1 - For those few of you familiar with 'Project SK', the flat affect is just one more indicator in a very, very long list. It's rather remarkable, really.