Being Sane Today in an Insane World

Wednesday, August 24, 2016 @ 9:11 PM

Being Sane Today in an Insane World. Can there be any doubt that we live in an insane world? The evidence is overwhelming that this is a world gone mad. At any time we teeter on the edge of terroristic actions that threaten us and could lead to our annihilation. We live in the midst of economies that often go wildly off track, leaving our lives consistently uncertain. In some areas of living, claims are made (with mounting proof) that old class structures are deteriorating with resultant huge gaps between the have and have-nots. Family life has changed drastically so that families no longer as they once were: sources of support, strength and growth. These sources are still present but gravely diminished.

Divorce rates remain at about 50% (for second marriages, around 65%). Consequently, couples are having significant difficulty in being couples. All over the world, life is cheap. It is difficult to keep track, it seems, of the increasing numbers of children being killed daily. Recently, in Chicago, a junior high girl was having ongoing difficulty with another girl. The grandmother of the junior high girl gave her a gun, telling her “Kill the bitch.” The junior high girl did just that, shooting her.

We cannot be sure that the leaders of countries in the world know what they are doing in their leadership. Often, sources of spiritual meaning and purpose in our lives, e.g., religious leadership, is in turmoil, conflict and doubt about primary concerns about how to live in this world. Daily news reports are filled with a wide range of focused and random acts of unkindness. Lately, increasingly, we are experiencing what appears to be a  strong growth in cruelty toward children: children are repeatedly being abused, mistreated and tortured. Sexual trafficking in children has increased in a
frightening manner. In a more general nature, parents and children experience continuing confusion, hostility and distancing from each other.

In a much larger context, through the effects of global warming, we face the possible prospect of the actual dying of the planet and world in which we live. A recent novel picturing the future begins with a recurrent theme---“It is very, very cold,” signifying what our climate might be like in short time ahead in our lives.

Additionally, we face the likelihood of various destructive aspects of the technological times in which we live, e.g., cyberhacking into our lives. This obviously is a present reality and will only grow. The recent revelations of various countries involved in this type of behavior exemplifies this reality.

Each of us can add our own thoughts to the reality of a world, in essence, that has gone mad, that reflects a continuing level of insanity. Of course, many would argue that this tenor of insanity is not any different than other times in the history of the world. Yet, there are two major differences in our time compared to other historical eras. Contemporary communication systems bring us, again and again, into the midst of the insanity of this world. The rapidity with which we encounter this insanity has increased in ways difficult to calculate and understand. And, at no
other time in history have we faced the total loss of life as we now know it. A clear illustration of this bleak possibility is found in Cormac McCarthy’s recent novel, The Road, in which a father and his son are wandering in a world that has suffered its very end. The father has one goal: to find the best care and life he can for his child. In a graphic, painful manner the novel describes the utter loneliness, intense fear and miserable, near hopeless destiny we could all face.

I think that by now I have made clear the possible realities in this world that add up to one huge Reality: in so many ways this is a world of insanity. True, it continues to be also a world of beauty, goodness, good people doing good. It continues to be a world in which we can and do experience happiness. There are, indeed, positive features of this world. But, still, in so many ways, this world, this life, is permeated with the insanity I have been describing:

What can we do about this? How ought we to live in this insanity?

I. Being sane in an insane world: be with someone
To be and stay sane, it is imperative to spend our life
with someone. Generally, to stay sane in this world the
worst thing we can do is to be alone. Exceptions to this
directive are, naturally, the person who chooses to be
alone, e.g., the contemplative or the person who
separates him/herself from the world because he/she,
for psychological reasons, is unable to live with another.
And, there are persons who assert they are more
comfortable with and desirous of living alone.
But, even though we need, at times, to be alone to
regroup ourselves to think through what is needed for
living out the various aspects of our lives I am asserting
the singular importance of being in a relationship to be
sane in this insane world. The emphasis here is to be
as fully as possible in this relationship with another, to
do so for the following reasons. In this way, we are
provided with another person with whom to share this
insane life and, together, develop various ways to cope
with the madness of living. Secondly, we are provided
with care and given the opportunity to give care: the
deeper we are involved in caring and being cared for,
the more this experience takes us away from the
insanity of living in this insane world. Third, we are
provided, in short, with an ongoing experience in which
we can constructively counter the insane world in
which we find ourselves. The significant, love
relationship we experience works to manage and,
hopefully, overcome the power of the insanity of this

II. Being sane in an insane world: become involved in
some type of concern outside yourself. A basic antidote
to world insanity is involving ourselves in issues,
concerns, problems and needs of others. Our health,
physical, psychological, social or personal in nature,
is strongly and deeply strengthened by the investment
of ourselves in the lives of other persons at their point
of need. Certain theorists, in fact, contend that the key to
living a meaningful life, a life that challenges and over-
comes the world’s insanity, is being consistently
invested in what is described as “social interest”---
an abiding willingness to act for and seek to help others
live more meaningfully.The point is clear and direct. In the context of our
particular circumstances, realities and limitations,
living purposefully with meaning in our lives is
centered in living for others in whatever we are able
to do for others. Being involved with others in this way becomes
a challenge to the insanity we see and experience all
around us. It is a challenge in that this type of other
involvement proposes that while there is insanity there
is also sanity through this engagement in the pain of
others. Examples of this type of other oriented living
could include reaching out to the poor, the hungry, the
physically and emotionally ill, the incarcerated---all who
through circumstances and choice find themselves in
debilitating pain. In the sanity and care of these acts of care for others
we behave in ways in which there is no expectation of
a “pay-off” but is, rather, behaving for the welfare of others.

III. Being sane in an insane world: become connected to
something beyond ourselves that is more powerful than
ourselves. This type of connection is an extension and
clarification of the previous point. But it centers our
acts of sanity in the midst insanity in an understanding
of how to live this life that is a centering of our lives.
Following Jesus in His life, teachings, death and
resurrection, we live most fully---we most completely
live, we most deeply over come the insanity of this
world---as we give ourselves away to the world and
to those in the world. This is our core sanity.
“For whoever wants to save his life will lose it,
but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it.”
Matthew 16:25. “For whoever wants to save his
life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My
and for the Gospel will save it.” Mark 8:35. “For
whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but
whoever loses his life for My sake will save it.”
Luke 9:24. The thrust is clear: Jesus is telling us that we live
Him, truly are disciples, only through giving our lives up
to God in this world by giving up our lives to those in
this world. As one writer puts it: “Money, power,
amusement and pleasure----objects we give our lives to
in a consumer culture---ironically consume us in the
end. Conversely, giving ourselves away to God, serving
others, laboring for justice, living sacrificially---the
things Jesus commanded us---give life back. If we lose
our lives, for him, we’ll find them.”
The insanity of this world will always be with us in
ever more insane ways. Sanity, that is, our own inner
peace, grounded in our Lord, occurs in living for others
and for Christ. This sanity can and will defeat the
insanity of this world and all worlds.

Gary L. Phillips