The Great Internet Quote Quiz

With All The Expertise Volunteered Internet Ignorance Priceless

As we surf the net in search of self-improvement tools, tips, and techniques it behooves us to consider the source of every thought nugget we devour. Do not feed your mind with tainted thoughts from questionable vendors. Before embracing an idea, verify the authenticity of its source. This quiz will help sharpen your skills! Identify the actual source of each quote.

1. “Just say no to nihilism.”
a.) Tristan Tzara
b.) Leo Buscaglia
c.) Ellen DeGeneres
d.) Taz Mopula

2. “Visualize world illiteracy.”
a.) Oprah Winfrey
b.) Taz Mopula
c.) Mark Twain
d.) Steven Jobs

3. “Think globally, act sillilly.”
a.) Julian Assange
b.) Paris Hilton
c.) Taz Mopula
d.) J.K. Rowling

4. “Life is good, death is poopy.”
a.) Taz Mopula
b.) Wayne Dyer
c.) Pat Robertson
d.) Adam Savage

5. “Humility is nothing to brag about.”
a.) Kanye West
b.) Tony Robbins
c.) Mark Chapman
d.) Taz Mopula

6. “Beware of petting a peeve; they bite.”
a.) Kim Kardashian
b.) Oscar Wilde
c.) Taz Mopula
d.) Penn Jillette

7. “Depression is nothing to laugh about.”
a.) Taz Mopula
b.) Phil Specter
c.) Homer
d.) Ivan The Terrible

8. “Reality is not merely a lifestyle option.”
a.) Ronald Reagan
b.) Paulo Coelho
c.) Taz Mopula
d.) Charles Manson

9. “Write first, decide not to later, edit later still.”
a.) Geraldo Rivera
b.) Taz Mopula
c.) Bob Dylan
d.) David Berkowitz

10. “Exorcise your demons, don’t exercise them.”
a.) Taz Mopula
b.) Tomás de Torquemada
c.) George W. Bush
d.) Maya Angelou

11. “Be nice to your enemies; you just might be one of them.”
a.) Rasputin
b.) Taz Mopula
c.) Whitey Bulger
d.) George Martin

12. “Expect the worst and you’re unlikely to be disappointed.”
a.) John Wayne Gacy
b.) Liberace
c.) Leonard Cohen
d.) Taz Mopula

13. “If you want to find your bliss, get yourself some blisters.”
a.) Pema Chödrön
b.) E. L. James
c.) Taz Mopula
d.) Jerry Garcia

14. “Beware of the future, it’s a fun place to visit but bad place to live.”
a.) Taz Mopula
b.) Albert Einstein
c.) Nostradamus
d.) Ernest Hemingway

15. “Think twice before burning bridges; you never know when you might want to jump off one of them.”
a.) Paul Reubens
b.) Greuthungi the Ostrogoth
c.) Taz Mopula
d.) David Koresh

16. “To live happily it either is or is not essential that one learns to embrace self-contradictory concepts.”
a.) Noam Chomsky
b.) Taz Mopula
c.) Neil deGrasse Tyson
d.) Keith Richards

17. “Before you criticize a man, walk half a mile in his shoes, turn around, retrace your steps, and return them to him.”
a.) Taz Mopula
b.) Elton John
c.) Lance Armstrong
d.) Pliny the Elder

18. “Help eliminate communication pollution! If you have nothing of value to say, say it only as often as is absolutely necessary.”
a.) Jerry Springer
b.) Taz Mopula
c.) Josquin des Prez
d.) Maury Povich

19. “Dying is easy, they say, but comedy is hard. So cheer up. Even if you fail at comedy you’re almost certain to die successfully.”
a.) Rev. Jim Jones
b.) Socrates
c.) Taz Mopula
d.) Edgar Allen Poe

20. “Since anything is possible, the only difference between the impossible and the possible is that the impossible is possible while the possible is not impossible, no matter how determined you are to make it so.”
a.) Tom Waits
b.) Timothy Leary
c.) Dalai Lama
d.) Taz Mopula

Correct Answers Will Be Published In Tomorrow’s Blog

If you enjoyed this quiz you will almost certainly enjoy my hilarious books – check them out by clicking HERE

Critical Condition

Dying Gladiator Resents Critics

If a debilitating mental illness like manic depression, schizophrenia, or republicanism has stolen your ability to make rational decisions – you’ve gone through a confidence crushing emotional sea change.

For many of us, it can be months, even years, before we regain the ability to observe, analyze, and evaluate the never-ending stream of input with clarity, agility, and unwavering authority.

Today’s recovering lunatic must contend with what I shall refer to as moral and emotional relativism and the insufferable twaddle known as political correctness. Anti-intellectualism is the height of fashion; claiming truth affords one as much credibility as being able to prove it. Sparing hurt feelings now takes precedence over honesty.

Fuzzy-headed social engineers would have us believe that everything is awesome, there are no losers, and all it takes to fulfill one’s wants and desires is the ability to visualize and wish with a level of naïve sincerity most frequently encountered in the puzzled expressions of unsuccessful prize fighters struggling through the final days of regrettable careers.

Faculties at last back where they belong, shoulders squared, you will gaze upon the rotting remains of what was once, at best, a mediocre culture and wonder – is this bullshit or is it me? At that precise moment, the extent of your recovery will be determined by your ability to say – this is bullshit – with confidence.

Like a muscle gone weak from neglect, the courage required to repudiate social stupidity must be rebuilt. To help you do so, I have prepared a diverse assortment of questions that call for snap judgments. Remember to trust your visceral responses. Good luck!

QUESTIONS

1. The meek shall inherit the earth. True_ False_

2. Quentin Tarantino once had an original idea. True_ False_

3. Everything happens for a reason. True_ False_

4. Harmony and joy will return to this troubled world of ours only after Garrison Keillor has been pecked to death by a duck. True_ False_

5. You are unique. True_ False_

6. Sacha Baron Cohen is funnier than syphilis. True_ False_

7. All men are created equal. True_ False_

8. In hell, all elevator Muzak is by Pink Martini. True_ False_

9. Creationism should be taught in high school science classes as a legitimate alternative to evolution. True_ False_

10. In Narcotics Anonymous, describing The Grateful Dead as – “a hideous shambles of talentless wing-nuts I can no longer endure” – is considered a pivotal breakthrough moment in recovery. True_ False_

ANSWER KEY

1. Sadly, this is not true, except to the extent that they will be buried in the earth.

2. False. No evidence supports this, although there is a remote possibility that he had one and kept it to himself.

3. True – frequently a bad reason.

4. True.

5. True. You are indeed unique; it’s one of the few qualities you share with everyone else.

6. True. Sacha Baron Cohen is a tiny bit funnier than syphilis.

7. False. Nobody believes this.

8. True. While no one has returned from hell to validate this, the force of logical deduction seems irrefutable.

9. True. In addition, Bozomism (clown worship) should be preached in all churches as a legitimate alternative to Christianity.

10. True. There is no record anywhere of a person listening to the Grateful Dead while sober.

The Isabella Mori Interview

I’ve done a lot of interviews about the how and why of writing my bipolar memoir but the one with Isabella Mori really stands out – she’s smart, appreciates literature, and is an excellent writer herself. Isabella is based in Vancouver and blogs regularly about mental health and recovery.

Invisible Driving Cover

Alistair McHarg: Thank you for your interest in INVISIBLE DRIVING. One thing that stands out about you is that you really care about literature. A lot of people I speak with only come to Invisible Driving from the bipolar standpoint, which is fine, as far as it goes.

Isabella Mori: There is a rhythm to your book that is clearly there but hard to pin down. In the beginning you seem to have a “crazy” chapter taking turns with a “normal”; then the manic and the normal (if I may use that word) start to take turns within the chapters, then whole chapters are wild and woolly, etc. etc. Can you say something about that? To what degree is that a stylistic device, and to what degree does it echo your experience? Can the two be separated at all?

Alistair McHarg: The manic chapters came first. Then a literary agent said that there needed to be “depth” – a second voice that was sane, reliable, and recovered. I rewrote the entire book several times. I now see she was so right, the chapters in the recovered voice provide the background – the psychological architecture. The reader finds out why I was vulnerable, what the triggers were, and what was significant about how I acted out. Yes, the point/counterpoint is very deliberate. (You would think that the wild, manic chapters would have been hardest to write, but the sane ones were much harder, more soul-searching of real things.)

Isabella Mori: Actually, to me, imagining writing the book, it felt that the manic ones were the ones that were written with more ease. Perhaps that is because I was frankly flabbergasted how much I could relate to a lot of what you wrote. I think that’s what first drew me in. I knew exactly what you were talking about, even though my bipolar experiences are extremely mild. I’m still astonished at that.

Alistair McHarg: Interesting. Maybe the bipolar experience is essentially the same, and what varies is the degree. It is a very nice compliment that the writing registered with you. (When I gave the ms. to my psychiatrist he said he had to put it down now and then because it was making him manic!) I can’t say that they were written in ease. Recreating the pitch of mania, the quicksilver logic twisting and slipping, the bobbing and weaving, energy, raw creative force – when I was squarely back on earth, slightly depressed – took a tremendous amount of labor and craft, craft I didn’t know I had until I attempted it.

Isabella Mori: I was wondering about the mood you were in when you wrote those passages! The fact that it was indeed a recreation speaks to your fantastic writing skills. Were there moments when you wondered whether recreating this would take you into the mania?

Alistair McHarg: Thank you. It was writing this book (my first) that turned me into a real writer; it was transformational. Your question is pivotal. I began writing immediately after the episode described had ended. I was terrified, really shaken. I had suffered with the illness long enough to know that a trigger could send me off again, and I was pretty sure another episode would kill me. But I knew I couldn’t write the book unless mentally I went back in. I was between a rock and a hard place. So I went deeply back into the middle of it. That decision is what made the experience transformational. I knew it might set me off on another high, I knew that it might kill me; I did it anyway. I knew that I had to face this damn illness or be destroyed by it.

Isabella Mori: Fascinating! I am really touched by what you say, can feel it in my gut. And what hits me is, again, this commingling; meeting of art, this thing called mental illness, and the healing of/from/with it. It reminds me of a poem I wrote many years ago when I was close to dying of typhoid fever. I wrote it in Spanish so it’s a bit hazy but something about the need to climb the mountain of art, alone, naked, because there is no other choice. Does that resonate?

Alistair McHarg: Resonate indeed. That was my challenge exactly, and it was probably the single bravest thing I’ve ever done. As you point out, I had to do it alone. I had been fed so many lies and was very fear-based. I had to strip absolutely everything away until there was nothing left that wasn’t true. And then I rebuilt; I reinvented myself. What you say about commingling is deep, and many people do not understand. I say often that Manic Depression and Alcoholism have given me more than they have taken. In Manic Depression I saw rare things, and was forced to evolve. Alcoholism ultimately took me to a better way of life and a higher power. It has all been a spiritual journey and while mental “illness” has caused earthquakes in my life it has also produced angels. I was shy, I hid, I felt “less than” – but manic depression made it impossible for me to hide, and also, it forced me to admit my power.

Isabella Mori: There is so much we could talk about here; I hope we stay in touch, but more on the commingling. So there is the art, there is the “mental illness” (funny how I often feel I have to put it in quotation marks), there is the healing, there is the acknowledgment of power, and then there is humor. There’s a lot of humor in your book. Page 218, “and how do these aristocrats of oddness settle down after a busy day of counting their fingers and slashing their wrists with plastics forks?” Humor in these circumstances can be taken as disrespect sometimes. Do you hear that sometimes? How do you react? By commingling I mean that the humor seems to be part of it all.

Alistair McHarg: Humor and music are in the very center of me. To me the best humor is never nasty, it doesn’t single out anybody and it is never there to make me feel better than you. Real humor celebrates the absurdity of all life, human vanity, fatuous selfishness. You will notice that most of the humor in the book comes at my own expense. That said, when I was manic every mean quality came out, the anger, the hurt, the fear, and, combined with an intellect that had caught fire, all this hurt often found expression in really cruel humor. Other times it was quite surrealistic and charming. In my other books – both are satiric novels, and my cartoons, even my poetry – you will find that I include myself, all of us, when aiming barbs. I disrespect elements of people; racism, jealousy, entitlement, xenophobia, but it is never about disrespecting people, it is about loving truth and loving what people could be but are afraid to be.

Isabella Mori: One last question for now. Towards the beginning of the book you say, “The love of my daughter is my favorite thing about myself.” In therapy, there is often a dictum that people should change for themselves, not for others. As a father, would you agree with that?

Alistair McHarg: This is a great question. The easy answer is yes! In AA we tell the uncertain ones; fake it ‘til you make it! At first it doesn’t matter if you are in therapy, or recovery, for the wrong reasons, so long as you are there. (Bring the body and the mind will follow.) But absolutely, there must come a time when you are doing it for yourself, otherwise you will never commit fully and you will never get the full benefit. If you asked me that question today I would answer: My favorite thing about me is that I know what I have to offer and I am doing my best to put it to the service of others.

Dealing With The Loss Of Mental Illness

Waving goodbye to mental illness

All good things must come to an end, according to the sage of old, but did you know this also applies to bad things? That’s right! Here’s the shocker; when it comes time to bid a fond adieu to your particular mental health challenge, you may find yourself dragging your heels, gnashing your teeth, dotting your tees, and crossing your eyes.

Ridiculous, you say? Stifling the urge to cough derisive laughter up your sleeve? Well don’t let a little counter-intuition embolden you overly; allow me to share a personal vignette for illustrative purposes.

As many of you know, Bipolar Disorder is my particular albatross and it ruled and wrecked my landscape like a series of Old Testament plagues. For years, life was defined by my relationship to this demon and I graduated from mere survival to combat to mastery until, at last, it lay in a heap at my feet, vanquished.

(Aficionados will point out that Bipolar Disorder is incurable. While true, I must add that one can reduce it to inconsequence and insignificance so that, for all intents and purposes, it is neutralized.)

When Bipolar Disorder was in full flower it made me zany, newsworthy, and interesting beyond my wildest dreams. This splashy, sensational illness became something like a really bizarre, all-consuming hobby with a huge payoff, continued existence! It even provided the subject matter for my first book, Invisible Driving, the original bipolar memoir. There were times I wondered what I did for entertainment before the onset of my “fine madness”.

Seventeen years in therapy raced by until, before I knew what hit me, sanity arrived and with it, the challenge of adapting to normal society as an insider. No longer shivering in the rain beneath a tattered blanket, marooned on the outskirts of town, I bravely faced a life of acceptance.

The thought of being ordinary was oddly unnerving. It was then that I experienced what trendy psychologists in California refer to as “the wrong goodbye”, grieving for the loss of mental illness.

Remarkably the process broke out over the classic 5-phase grief confrontation process identified by Kübler-Ross in 1969.

1. Denial – I refused to believe that insanity had abandoned me.

2. Anger – I was furious at losing my most marketable attribute.

3. Bargaining – I furiously crafted disingenuous deals with a deity I did not believe in.

4. Depression – I tried to rekindle the illness by immersing myself in depression.

5. Acceptance – Began insisting on being accepted as a sane person and threatened insane reprisals if I was not. 

Only by going through this 5-step process in good faith did I come to understand that saying goodbye to insanity can be a good thing; and that sanity can be a lot more messed up than one might imagine.

Existentialists Explore Extreme Tedium

Russian Base Jumping

The word “extreme” is overused today; like “awesome” it has been drained of its raw glory by thoughtless abuse. Being manic-depressive – or “bipolar” – I have spent most of my life in extremes, natural habitat of the mad. I chased kicks obsessively, certain I was having fun. But fun, I discovered late in life, occurs when you know who you are and enjoy who you are; you don’t find fun somewhere else, you bring it with you. What I actually chased was adrenaline.

“Until you’ve had nothing you haven’t yet had everything.” Taz Mopula

We attempt to make mundane activities sound less mundane by applying the word “extreme” to them, for example – “extreme makeover” – not to be confused with “extreme snoring” or “extreme shoe polishing”. But the dirty little secret about life in extremes is that over time they blend together and lose their scary, “cool” edge. So many of these adventures are flights away, not towards.

“There are two kinds of people, those who believe there are only two kinds of people and those who dislike oversimplification.” Taz Mopula

Mental hospitals and prisons are all basically identical, bland food, linoleum, and well-appointed recreational facilities. Teheran opium den, Rio de Janeiro brothel, raging forest fires in Alaska, battered urban wastelands of Philadelphia; after peeling off layers of veneer I realized they were all essentially the same place. Ultimately it wasn’t where I was that mattered so much as what I was doing there, and why.

“People are always finding God in prisons and mental hospitals; but try finding a gift shop.” Taz Mopula

Whether by design or, as in my case, fate, it is exhilarating to close your eyes and sail off the edge of a cliff – crash – break into a heap of ragged fragments – and do it all again once you’ve mended. The thrill is all consuming and luscious. Doing what most people spend their entire life fearing and avoiding accelerates the process of spiritual growth, but, like anything else, there are limits to what it can offer. Crashing one’s car into a wall at 100 mph twice is not twice as instructive as doing it once.

“Everything and Nothing are identical twins; completely unrelated to Enough.” Taz Mopula

The shocking revelation about spending a life exclusively in extremes is that it actually stunts growth and ultimately is, (gasp), boring. The middle lane is not only the safest, it is the most richly complex, challenging, and satisfying; it’s where the real action is.

The Importance Of Being Unimportant

One Cannot Overestimate The Importance Of Fully Grasping

One day, while sitting in my windowless corporate office and trying to imagine it didn’t resemble a jail cell, I picked up my ringing phone to discover the call was not business-related, it was in fact a friend I’ll call Chumley Frampton, although his real name is Syngen Enthwhistle.

Arrogance: What stupidity wants to be when it grows up. Taz Mopula

Now, bear in mind that Chumley is not what you would call a close friend, so I wondered immediately what the purpose of his call might be. I didn’t have to wait long. With fabricated faux urgency for which he is well known, Chumley informed me he was too busy to speak with me right now and had to ring off.

Multi-tasking: The fine art of doing many things badly at the same time.” Taz Mopula

Yes, that’s right. He called me to let me know he was too busy to speak with me, even though we hadn’t spoken in months.

Before you criticize a man, walk half a mile in his shoes, turn around, retrace your steps, and return them to him.” Taz Mopula

I don’t usually deconstruct for the reader’s benefit but let’s look at this briefly. 1.) Apparently he was incorrect, he wasn’t too busy to speak with me – the communication was false. 2.) Had it been accurate, why would I have cared? What possible purpose could have been served? 3.) The exclusive point of this contact was to remind me of his importance. (This quality, by the way, existed only in his mind, assuming that one measures importance by gauging influence, power, achievement, and celebrity, which he did. So, not only was it a tiresome nuisance, it was wildly inaccurate.)

“Celebrity: A state of being where one is not known by a large number of people.” Taz Mopula

As concept humor the story is hard to beat, but there is another reason why I’ve retained it all these years. Long ago a psychiatrist said to me, “It really matters to you that what you do is perceived as important.” This was both true and damning. He didn’t say that it was important to me that I achieved important things – (like Chumley I existed on the periphery of accomplishment but had nothing to show for myself) – he said it was important that I was perceived as having done so. Back in the day, Chumley and I managed our images fastidiously, what others thought of us mattered tremendously, indeed, it determined the value of our stock.

“Humility is nothing to brag about.” Taz Mopula

Today I know with absolute certainty that I am not important. On occasion I may be involved in work that is potentially important, and now and then I may serve the purposes of a very important entity, but that is another matter altogether. If I ever find myself making a case for self-importance I immediately take a time out – recalibrate, and begin again.

“Never underestimate your ability to underestimate others, and overestimate your own capabilities.” Taz Mopula

I am perhaps important to the extent that I have learned the importance of unimportance.

Straight Jackets Made Here

straight jacket

How is it that a culture able to conceive and create over 100 different types of toothpaste has managed to develop just one vision of the afterlife?

Heaven: puffy clouds, harps, angels floating lazily. Hell: flames, smell of sulfur, pitchfork-wielding demons.

Humanity really enjoys patting its collective back on the subject of inventiveness and creativity, but here, in a matter demanding its full powers and greatest reach, we are stuck with clichés so mundane they’re better suited to greeting cards than theological constructs.

Once again, imagination fails precisely when we need it most.

Heaven is actually very easy to find – (in a difficult sort of way) – but I will save that discussion for another day.

Hell, by contrast, finds you – and for those of us who labor under the disadvantage of mental illness, this concept has a very special meaning indeed.

You see, there is nothing generic about hell; it is not a “one-size-fits-all” experience. To view it this way is to grossly underestimate the exquisite construction of nature, in general, and the human mind in particular.

In fits of mental illness, your best friend – (you, one hopes) – turns traitor and becomes your worst enemy. This is very bad news since your newfound nemesis knows absolutely everything about you – darkest hungers, terrors, insecurities, shame, self-loathing, resentments, rage, unwholesome needs.

In other words, there is an entire dungeon full of devices to select from in order to devise a torture ideally suited to hurt and damage you as much as possible. One must admire the elegance of this construct, assuming one is blessed with the luxury of distance from it.

They say that the lesson you most need to learn is the one that will continue to confront you, reappearing endlessly until you deal with it. Mental illness is frequently a way to make certain this rule is enforced.

Your straight jacket will not be “off-the-rack” – it is custom-tailored to accentuate precisely those qualities you would prefer to hide from the world, and yourself.

I Was Wrong

wrong way

Infallible people never have to apologize, why would they? These are the folks of whom it is said, “Been there, done that, has a medal to prove it.”

My own father was one of these blessed individuals, and he constantly reasserted his infallibility by mercilessly bludgeoning anyone who disagreed with him. I cannot recall him ever apologizing. Indeed, apologizing is one of many skills he neglected to teach me.

My own pantomime of infallibility, a sort of homage to dad, depended on a careful balance of arrogance, gullible audiences, and tap dancing. Lacking the big guy’s prodigious powers of prestidigitation I could only keep the illusion alive for a while. Fortunately, when cracks began appearing in the shiny veneer – well – new, less discriminating audiences were always waiting.

Worshiping at the altar of perfection, imagining a model of humanity superior to all others, I naturally came to regard apologies as anathema. To apologize was to admit fault, to shine the unforgiving spotlight on a hideous blemish, either deed – or worse – attribute of character.

Two things happened.

First, I completely abandoned what I call “the myth of perfection” which I regard as a toxic lie responsible for an almost unimaginable amount of misery. I accepted myself as an imperfect entity.

Next, I came to understand mistakes as essential to the human experience.

Edison observed that his latest experiment hadn’t failed; he had simply found another way to not do what he was trying to do. Ultimately, I came to realize, the only people who don’t make mistakes are the people who don’t do anything. (Ironically, this is the biggest mistake of all, since it wastes a life.)

Now, instead of feeling diminished by apologizing, I feel empowered. To apologize is to cease hiding and take ownership of something you have done. It is also to acknowledge the effect one has had on others; it validates them and puts their needs above yours.

Apologizing is yet another skill I learned in the damp basements of my program, and I quickly came to the conclusion that it is one of the few activities in life one cannot do too often. If you have made a hurtful mistake, own it, face it, deal with it. Bow.

Fearing Fate

Some Born To Greatness Some Flee It Unsucessfully

Fate is a concept that has fallen from fashion; like honor, morality, and manners. We think of fate as akin to voodoo, primitive twaddle embraced by simple, unsophisticated people. Surrounded by our gadgets, the much-loved amulets and totems of today, we imagine ourselves swimming in free will, shaping our very reality as we go, bending life itself to our wishes. This, of course, is fatuous delusion, the product of our misguided belief that technology will cure the human flaws that have dogged our every step for millennia.

In fact, we are well past the master/slave tipping point and it has become impossible for any serious student of modern life to suggest with a straight face that these machines serve us; our habits and behaviors have simply become grist for the mill they own and operate.

We are the raw material; they are the plantation owners. Candidly, you will have to search far and wide in our society for anything resembling freedom and free will; as was the case in post-bellum America, “volunteered slavery” results when the terrible face of freedom rears its ugly head, we race back to the comfort of shackles, all of us.

Mental illness introduced me to freedom, real freedom, the freedom one experiences wandering alone in the desert at night, pursued by jackals. It is every bit as terrifying and exhilarating as you think it is. But today, now, I am more interested in fate, that force we imagine we’ve outgrown.

I suggest that the only people who would deny the existence of fate are those who have never tried to disobey its merciless judgment, those of us who have never tried to swim upstream, those among us who have never put forth the unpopular, contrarian position just because someone needed to do it and no one else, apparently, had the moxie.

Because, friends, you flee fate at your peril; hide from fate and you enter the old testament world, you get smote with a two-by-four.

Let’s paraphrase Shakespeare. “In my stars I am above thee; but be not afraid of greatness: some are born great, some achieve greatness, and some are beaten like rented mules and stepchildren until they finally get a little humility, to say nothing of a clue, and start doing what they’re supposed to do.”

Greatness lurks on both sides of my family tree like a meretricious monster, smiling its disingenuous smile, lying without even saying a word. As a child I did worship it, like other people, but became more conscious of its horrors than its delights, and soon fell into the familiar pattern of fleeing into escape in its myriad forms, drugs, alcohol, mania and depression, indulging hedonistic appetites, the adrenaline rush of reckless thrill seeking, etcetera.

What comes of wrestling with one’s fate, hiding from it, denying it, is simple – and recognizable from far away – you see a man losing a war with himself, a man who has become his worst enemy, a man self-administering the death of 1,000 cuts.

In 1990 I wrote the first draft of my bipolar memoir, Invisible Driving. In the course of doing so I had to confront some hideous realities.

First, of course, came the shame and disgrace of being less than, inferior, crazy. Then there was the ragged history of escape into intoxicants. Worse still was a long string of unpalatable attributes, cowardice, arrogance, entitlement, narcissism and elitism among them.

But, as I slaved to do the impossible, that is, put readers into the unimaginably foreign world of mania, something even more horrible appeared, a quality I’d feared yet always secretly wondered about; greatness.

Once you have done something absolutely new, something clearly impossible, you cannot pretend you haven’t. You know. And if you know, and you fail to act on that knowledge, you are far worse than a slacker – you are too much of a coward to be yourself.

We are put here to love one another, to care for one another. When we don’t, we fuck with fate, and the sickness begins. There are a million ways to be great.

If greatness is your fate, do not flee it; but remember it’s the gift that keeps on taking.” Taz Mopula

Suffering Judgment

Expect People To Disappoint You When They Don't

When my daughter was young – say 12 – she was going through a rough patch with her friends involving bad-mouthing and backstabbing. I told her, “Honey, people will always talk about you and 95% of what they say will be wrong. You may as well get used it.”

In the rooms they repeat this gem, “What people think of me is none of my business.” Both statements speak to what I call, “benign disinterest in the opinion of others, pro and con.” Indeed, if your self-esteem rises and falls in direct relation to the value applied by others, seasickness is in your future. We all know that true self-esteem comes from within and is blissfully unaware of audience reaction.

This would not be a significant concept if it were not so incredibly hard to achieve. The idea is particularly relevant for those of us residing in any extreme demographic, regardless if it’s admired or loathed by society. For example, envy causes us to secretly despise the beautiful while fear causes us to despise the unattractive. In general, we like people that fall neatly into our own bracket and look upon outliers with suspicion.

Relevance is even greater if you’ve been tarred with the brush of mental illness. For one, the smear is never coming off; you will always be “a few bricks shy of a load” in the eyes of observers. So pretending you’re not “an alien” isn’t a real option. You’ve had experiences completely outside the understanding of most people – this is very scary. (Just like married people often avoid divorced people, they seem to fear it’s contagious.) 

But, as a recovered person, you function normally – just like a real person! – even though your emotional range is far greater and more profound than theirs, and that is thoroughly intimidating. (People, even nice people, are not at their best when intimidated – you’ve worked hard to achieve “normality” but they may be invested in minimizing your accomplishment.)

You have broken through the mirror and become an “aristocrat of the soul” – you will be viewed with a combination of revulsion and envy. You went to the summit of Everest, and lived – they’ve never made it out of the foothills, and never will. But you are not going to be pulled down and changed by the weirdness of their reactions to you, on the contrary, you are simply going to open up and let them into your world, a world they would never get to see if you hadn’t gone there.