October 7, 2011


Sometimes a thing seems profound simply because it doesn’t make sense. I’ve already recounted my story about the mathematical genius who told me he knew he was crazy when he saw people sitting in their cars stopped at a red light.  To this day his remark bugs me. What did he mean? What was he saying about insanity? I still don’t get it.

For good or ill people do and say things every day I don’t understand. A thug enters a school and shoots everybody in sight. When it’s over, people who knew him are prone to remark, “He was such a quiet man.” The description doesn’t express anything except the bewilderment everyone feels.  

To be honest, we don’t know much about ourselves and I hope science never does figure us out entirely. Still, there are events in my life that pose questions I can’t answer, moments that leave me feeling like I’m the only person in the room who doesn’t get the joke. 

Years ago, a psychologist recommended I read a book by a Japanese warrior from the 1500’s, Miyamoto Musashi. The work was entitled “The Book of Five Rings” and at the time of its re-release, it made the bestseller list. As I am always nervous around psychologists, I took the recommendation to have some ulterior meaning. Perhaps the man saw some crack in me that desperately needed attention. In any case, I took his suggestion as a prescription. I bought the book and read it. Sadly, the contents made no sense to me, nor could I see any relevance to my life. No matter. To this day, I wonder about his recommendation. 

(Getty Images)

I could have asked what he meant, of course. But I’ve been around enough shrinks to know he’d have answered my question with his own. “What do you think?”  

What could I have said in reply? If I don’t understand a thing, how can I know what to think? Maybe it’s just me, but from my observations, what causes the most trouble in life are people who don’t know something and have an opinion anyway.