September 1, 2011


In Thomas Mann’s novel “Dr. Faustus” his central character is a talented musician, Adrian Leverkuhn, who elects to contract syphilis, hoping that madness will inspire his creativity and take him beyond the ordinary. During one outbreak of Leverkuhn’s fever, he meets the devil, who allays his doubts about his vision:

     ” …that you can only see me because you are mad does not mean that I do not exist.”

That Leverkuhn should seek madness is no stranger than those who take drugs to experience extraordinary visions. I confess, the older I get, the more the line between illusion and reality seems to blur. Where that line exists is the stuff of my recent novel, “Trompe l’Oeil” and a theme in the one that follows.

What I’ve learned thus far in my life is that there is no single vision of the world. I am not speaking of science with its chasm between Newtonian and quantum physics. Ordinary life, too, presents many us a similar schism. The clashes between our political parties represent two views of the world which seem irreconcilable. But the divergence exists not only in the extremes but also in the middle where a multitude of opinions exist. Who among us has the true grasp of what is real and what is madness?    

In five days, I turn 75 and this I know: the human mind and the world are too complicated for simplistic formulas. We are born into a natural world that is nothing but diversity and we are descendants of evolutionary change. That we vary in our perceptions is understandable. To insist upon a single view is the real madness. The balm for that disease is tolerance applied often and liberally. I know only one truth:Truth is relative.