There’s real value in being jolted out of the day-to-day routine. In the past week or more there’s been very little in the way of the familiar — either in ideas or surroundings.
The combination of Jon Ronson’s new book, The Psychopath Test, a few days caught up in the vastness of New York City, stimulating conversations with compelling companions, and holding a golden ticket to the irreverent and, at times, gasp-inducing musical, The Book Mormon, followed by a few stories in Sunday’s New York Times provided a supermarket of thoughts, a mind feast.
Since this is a blog after all, I’m giving myself permission to take a leisurely bite out of each over the coming days. Let’s start with Mr. Ronson.
Contained in his book, subtitled “A Journey Through the Madness Industry,” were these observations by a renowned psychiatrist Dr. Allen Frances: “there’s a societal push for conformity in all ways. There’s less tolerance of difference.”
Hang on, I thought. Clearly, this can’t be right. Don’t we live in a time of unprecedented expression?
And yet, the more I thought about it, the more it occurred to me that we may be living — bolstered by Tweets and Facebook updates — with a comfortable illusion of anything goes.
Ronson’s discussion with Dr. Frances concerned the proliferation of new psychiatric diagnoses contained in the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. Dr. Frances, as I learned in doing more research, has come to the conclusion that “in making diseases out of everyday suffering” we’re “padding the bottom lines of drug companies” and creating “terrible consequences.”
Let’s chew on that a bit…