You ask me how I became a madman. It happened thus: One day, long before many gods were born, I woke from a deep sleep and found all my masks were stolen — the seven masks I have fashioned and worn in seven lives — I ran maskless through the crowded streets shouting, “Thieves, thieves, the cursed thieves.”
Men and women laughed at me and some ran to their houses in fear of me.
And when I reached the market place, a youth standing on a house-top cried, “He is a madman.” I looked up to behold him; the sun kissed my own naked face for the first time. For the first time the sun kissed my own naked face and my soul was inflamed with love for the sun, and I wanted my masks no more. And as if in a trance I cried, “Blessed, blessed are the thieves who stole my masks.”
Thus I became a madman.
And I have found both freedom and safety in my madness; the freedom of loneliness and the safety from being understood, for those who understand us enslave something in us.
But let me not be too proud of my safety. Even a thief in a jail is safe from another thief.
– from Kahlil Gibran’s The Madman
I had a dream.
And in that dream, I stood accused by a family member.
“Waste of life.”
I raised my voice in defense of myself, in defense of my actions, but my words carried no weight. The accusations had already struck home, nettled deep in my heart. And I believed them.
I woke up. It was the middle of the night. I felt heartbroken. A real throbbing pain in my heart. The last time I’d felt anything close to this feeling was when I fell for the wrong woman a couple years ago.
And this had all come from a dream.
“Fine!” I thought. “I am all those things. I’m a loser. I’m a bum. A failure. A disgrace to my family. I accept all of it. Now let me sleep in peace!”
I went back to sleep.
I awoke again, this time in the mode of consciousness somewhere between dreaming and waking. I was definitely in my room…but not in my room.
I felt a soft hand cradling my head, caressing it. I felt another hand holding my hand, lifting my arm above me.
“What do you want?” I asked.
I heard nothing. Just felt a gentle tugging on my hand.
“Do you want me to get up?” I asked. I tried to make my body get up, but it wouldn’t obey. “What do you WANT?” I cried out, frustrated.
I came to full consciousness. I could still feel them. The spirits.
I went back to sleep.
Now back in the dream world, I was running around a room, holding a notebook full of my writings. I needed to show it to someone; it contained my life experiences, my questionings, my theories about the nature of reality. A man shrouded in shadow appeared and shot me in the head. I fell down and my vision went black, and I could feel the pain in my head where the bullet entered. But then I rose up again, still holding my book. My vision returned. The man in shadow was sitting calmly in the corner of the room, staring at me.
“Am I mad?” I said to no one in particular. “Am I mad?”
A little gnomish figure appeared out of no where. “You aren’t mad,” he said. “You’re something else.”
With a grin, he disappeared through a door hidden in the floor.
I started to cackle as I held my book to my chest.
I woke up again and…something felt very different. Everything in my room was shimmering. But the light wasn’t arising from the objects. It was more like the light was shimmering from BEHIND the objects. Like everything was arising from the light.
In that moment, my mind felt free of all the judgments I’d burdened myself with. “If this is madness,” I said to myself. “I accept it. I’ll accept that too.”
My body was flooded with relief and exhilaration. I got up out of bed, stood in the middle of my room, and just started laughing and clapping my hands. “YES!” I thought. “I’ve lost it! I’ve really lost! YES! NOW I CAN BE FREE!”
Somewhere, at some point, my mind gathered itself back together. I shut that door, and went on with my day as usual.