Britain's first book blogger (November 2000)

Saturday, September 06, 2008

Light is the lion ...

One may call it mania, madness, or psychosis — a chemical imbalance in the brain — but it presents itself as energy of a primordial sort.
Oliver Sacks reviews Michael Greenberg's Hurry Down Sunshine, a book about his daughter Sally's transformation.
Greenberg likens it to "being in the presence of a rare force of nature, such as a great blizzard or flood: destructive, but in its way astounding too." Such unbridled energy can resemble that of creativity or inspiration or genius — this, indeed, is what Sally feels is rushing through her — not an illness, but the apotheosis of health, the release of a deep, previously suppressed self.
Later, a doctor says to Sally: "I bet you feel as if there's a lion inside you".

The link between mental health and creativity is now a relatively familiar subject. Still, Sacks' compassionate account with its beautiful, unruffled prose is a mood brightener in itself. However, lately, reading with increasing unease the smug, paranoid and irrational assertions on literary and political messageboards and blog comments, I've wondered how much mental illness accounts for online debate and, perhaps more importantly, how much it has silenced.

By the way, if you recognise Greenberg's name but can't place it, he writes an excellent fortnightly column in the TLS.

1 comment:

  1. Certainly all the obvious negative potential aspects of internet communication exist...too tedious to detail, but just touching on the awareness of this world of damaged minds that ordinary life where we largely get to choose who we befriend or at least whose company we are willing to tolerate or invite.
    Comparatively some of these people imagine that because one has, for instance, a blog, that one has decided to abandon all these natural defences, or whatever the apt expression, and has made of oneself an open 'democratic' entity, who must accept the other's place in one's life, however obnoxious. I've decided, in the interests of something closer to full inhabitation of myself and my interests, to simply delete or not accept some of the effluences emanating from these smug, paranoid self-adoring and simultaneously self-loathing selves. I don't even bother to read the post. Just see the name and delete; experience being a great teacher.
    Came up with a line recently on the public domain, "Where vast numbers of existentially unreal people vainly endeavour through sheer weight of numbers to create one real collective entity."
    Certainly looking at teh various message-boards is rarely much beyond an immersion in this whirlpool of unreality.

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