We've all heard about that so called fine red line between genius and insanity. The phrase is used over and over again, despite the fact that noone has ever come up with a reasonable definition of either mental state.
In reality, not only is ther no line, but the overlap between the two is probably responsible for every major upward step Mankind has made since the first two rocks got banged together.
The world's greatest thinkers have been reviled as either lunatics, heretics, idiots or witches since time immemorial.
When Copernicus first noticed that the Sun did not actually revolve around the Earth, the church declared him insane so that he could be ridiculed and silenced, and when that didn't shau him up they tried him for heresy.
Leonardo DaVinci, hundreds of years ahead of his time with concepts such as the diving bell, the helicopter and the tank, was looked upon as a lunatic by most, and by some standards he may well have been.
One reasonable definition of 'Genius' is "The ability to see reality in ways that are not accessible to the majority of people."
One reasonable definition of 'Insanity' is "The affliction of seeing reality in ways that are not recognisable to the majority of people."
The difference has more to do with what is acceptable than what is reasonable.
Even the funniest, most entertaining people in the world have suffered from manic depression. Spike Milligan, John Cleese, Drew Carey and Roseanne have all publicly discussed their treatment for depression.
Even Noman Gunston has suffered from Bi-polar Disorder.
The greatest works of art ever seen were the products of 'Other Thinkers' such as Picasso, Dali, Rembrandt and Van Gough.
The most moving words ever written were penned by supposedly socially unacceptable characters the likes of Byron, Coleridge, Hemingway, Wilde and Poe.
Even music would suffer, (depending on your tastes) for the loss of Beethoven, Bach and Mozart, or even Billy Joel, Elton John and Elanis Morissette.
Some of the most illustrious names in history, Winston Churchill, Patton and Queen Elizabeth for example, have at some stage in their lives, needed professional psychiatric help.
There is no 'Fine Red Line.
It is instead a broad and busy highway along which the the finest, the most creative among us, drive the world.
- January 2001 -