Babylon was a gold cup in the Lord's hand; she made the whole earth drunk. The nations drank her wine; therefore they have now gone mad. Jeremiah 51:7
Check a dictionary and you will find an entry like this: “H.G. Wells, (1886-1946), English novelist, journalist, sociologist, and historian…” In 1939 he wrote a book entitled The Holy Terror, dealing with the psychological development and aberrations of Stalin, Mussolini, and Hitler. Following World War 2, he wrote his last book, entitled Mind at the End of Its Tether. In this dark and pessimistic book he said, “This world is at the end of its tether—the end of everything we call life is close at hand and cannot be evaded. There is no way out or around or though the impasse. It is the end.”
Yes, you can say, “It has not happened,” yet a casual reading of a newspaper or news magazine or the evening news reminds us that it’s a mad, mad world. How else account for the hatred between Jews and Arabs? How explain the hatred that drives terrorists to destroy themselves in a suicide bombing mission with the hope that they can take a few other lives? How explain the mentality of high school students who plan an attack on fellow students, hoping to kill a significant number, realizing that they are bound to be killed at the same time?
There’s a quote from Oliver Goldsmith that says, “The dog, to gain his private ends, went mad, and bit the man” (Elegy on the Death of a Mad Dog). OK, when a dog goes mad, you shoot it and examine the animal to see if he has rabies; but when a leader goes mad, the whole world suffers.
Shakespeare’s description, ‘Life is a tale told by an idiot—full of sound and fury, signifying nothing,” better describes life in the twenty-first century than in Elizabethan England.
When someone goes mad, he is properly described as insane, and is institutionalized. Dr. Karl Menninger, often remembered for his quote, “Love is a medicine for the sickness of the world,” used to draw a line. Then on one side he would write sane, and on the opposite, insane. He would then tell his students that there is no clear line you cross when you move from sanity to insanity. He would say that everyone moves back and forth on this continuum of life. When you are in control, you are considered to be sane, but when you are no longer able to function in a normal manner, you are insane.
The reality of life today is that we are facing unprecedented pressures and stress. Part of it is the result of more and more choices, financial pressure, relationships that have gone sour, unfulfilled expectations, and disappointments—yes, lots of them. We feel like a juggler who keeps picking up crystal balls, tossing more into the air, thinking that he can juggle just one more, until he misses one and they all come crashing down.
Dr. Menninger used to say that a fish with a hook in his jaw looks and swims perfectly normal to other fish, until the fisherman starts pulling. That’s when the fish flops in the water and his fellow fish say, “He’s crazy! Look at him.”
There are reasons why people go mad in our world today, and there are also things you can do to keep your sanity in a mad, mad world. Time’s almost gone on this edition of Guidelines, but I’ll tell you the first and most important thing you need to keep your sanity in a mad, mad world. The first step is keeping your perspective, and that includes a God element who defines the boundaries and limits of our world. Leaving God out of the equation of your life leaves you with a blind spot that produces lostness. More on tomorrow’s commentary.
Resource reading: Jeremiah 51