London, for any performer, is a goldmine, being as it is full of crazy people. Yesterday, as I was coming home on the train from Victoria a lady sat opposite me. Statuesque, black, a strikingly handsome face wearing what can only be described as a black sheep of a coat, with the biggest black Chanel handbag I’ve ever seen. Ostensibly, if I’d seen her at a distance, I might not have picked up on her personal idiosyncrasies; but up close and personal, as she muttered to herself “Oh, I’ve done it now, someone better rescue me from this” repeatedly, my innate curiosity was piqued by her story. Further piqued as she spoke overly loudly to “Giovanni” and “Peter” on her phone, telling them how she’d been offered a job, but had been booked in for twelve weeks, and darling, you are coming over tomorrow to the party, aren’t you, I’m going to be in between two D.J.s, you have to come, I need to be rescued, ciao ciao! As she got off the phone to each friend her conversation continued, as if someone else was still there. I veered between desperately trying to sneak a glance at her and deliberately avoiding direct eye contact, but she was one of those characters that if you wrote her in a play, people would think she was an exaggeration.
Of course, there are different levels of crazy. There are outrageous characters like this statuesque lady; people who have lost the ability to function rationally through drink and drugs; and those who develop illnesses like Alzheimers. Ever since childhood, I remember being fascinated by the notion of crazy people; to the extent that when a primary school teacher read a poem about a crazy woman, and asked the class what they thought, I piped up by saying “Well, maybe she isn’t crazy; she just sees the world differently. Maybe we are the ones that are crazy”. I was eight.
Mental illness in itself is a very interesting thing to me. I’ve had a number of friends who’ve struggled with depression, to the extent where their ability to complete even the most basic of tasks left them. These are brilliant, beautiful, creative wonderful people who have nothing visibly wrong with them, but who need (from my observance) to take life at a different pace, a different tempo. Having experienced moments of depression myself over life events (deaths, break ups and so on), I understand the need to slow down, recoup and rebuild; and it is interesting to me in a world so filled with constant stimulation that maybe there aren’t more people driven mad.
There are also different types of madness. Watching people make the same mistakes again and again in their lives (and that includes myself) proves Einstein’s assertion that “insanity: [is] doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. Are we all insane at some level? Is the very act of being human and fallible in itself a wonderful, insane adventure? When people try to do things a little differently, why are we immediately suspicious and dub the person “weird” or “strange”? It seems to me that anyone who has ever made a difference in the world has had to see the world in a different, unlimited way to fathom thinking outside the narrow boxes the vast majority of humans confine themselves in. Thinking about Jesus today, on Good Friday, I am sure that people at that time probably dismissed him as being a crank who thought he could save the world by dying. Granted, I don’t personally believe anymore (as a very lapsed Catholic) in the messianic aspect of Jesus’ life story; but it seems to me that the notion of “Love thy neighbour” and “Blessed are the peacemakers” are not ideas indicative of insanity, but radical and difficult challenges in their inherent simplicity.
So to all the crazy people out there, those who cross my path every so often and make me think about how wonderful and mysterious the human experience is, in all its myriad of colours and sensations and feelings and hues: I salute you. Live differently. Dream big. And every now and then, don’t forget to really breathe…..