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  • Writer's pictureJeff Monday

Beginning with Madness

"But I don't want to go among mad people," Alice remarked.

"Oh, you can't help that," said the Cat: "we're all mad here. I'm mad. You're mad."

"How do you know I'm mad?" said Alice.

"You must be," said the Cat, "or you wouldn't have come here."

---Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland

When I decided to start the Story King Chronicles, I had no idea where it would end up, but I knew where it would begin. With madness. The first chapter of Jom is titled 'The Bedlam War' and is a perfect beginning to a fever dream of an adventure.

I've always been fascinated by insanity. My brain doesn't fire on all the same cylinders as most. I see emotions. Distance is arbitrary. Time is a construct. At nights, I wander the dreamscape and check on other versions of me throughout the multiverse. In other words, I'm a little off, a bit touched.

Functionally mad.

Or, alternatively, I'm completely in my right mind and it's all of you that are insane.

"You're only given a little spark of madness. You mustn't lose it." --Robin Williams

I wrote 'The Bedlam War' never knowing how that very first chapter of the first book would have so many repercussions throughout the rest of the story. All I was thinking about was reading about mass hysteria and plagues of dancing and the Salem witch trials and teenage girls going bonkers at Elvis concerts. I was thinking about how one person can 'infect' everyone around them with their personal insanity. We've all experienced it: someone sees a new show or hears a new song or gets a new pair of shoes or whatever. They're really excited, manically so, and tell everyone. Other people get excited and tell others. Sure, most of the time this is just gossip spreading or a fad or whatnot. But then there are those magical times where people seriously just lose their minds collectively. Madness can infect other people just as surely as the flu or pink eye.

"A person needs a little madness, or else they never cut the rope and be free." --Nikos Kazantkzakis

One of my favorite examples of collective madness is the wave of 'dancing mania' that swept through Europe in the olden days. Groups of people, sometimes hundreds, would spontaneously dance. Flailing their limbs erratically around, they cavorted until they passed out from exhaustion. Sometimes, musicians would play in an attempt to stave off the mania but, more often than not, this would backfire and instead encourage other, non-manic townspeople, to start dancing as well. How Monty Python didn't do a bit on this, I'll never understand.

I grew up in a time and place where everyone was expected to act the same, look the same, talk the same. Sure, there could be minor variations to the rules, but for the most part, swerving from the norm was frowned upon. My hair was too long as a teen. I didn't play sports enough. I was too 'artistic'. I was always pushing back against expectations. Forging my own path through life was not, is not easy. Nor should it be. Going mad makes some things easier but it's a double-edged mackerel. Finding a way to balance my insanity with the world's is a constant challenge. A puzzle with too many pieces (but not really because some are supposed to go perpendicular.) My stories are inspired in part from the world around me which never makes sense.

So I encourage you all to embrace your madness. Feed it rainbows and tears. Sing to it. Do a duet. Let it guide your hand and your thoughts and create beauty.

"Follow your inner moonlight; don't hide the madness" --Allen Ginsberg

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