The Mad Man
A Poem by Teal Swan
From a lost wilderness A slow motion movie plays. I see myself as a child The simplicity Of running barefoot… Of mud across my face. My feet had never walked across The lifelessness of pavement. My hands had never run across The truculence of metal and glass. I was unknown yet to the world. Did I leave behind that simplicity Thinking that significance would taste good? The more they see me The less they see me The more of a projection I become. Whatever they need me to be So that they can love me. Whatever they need me to be So that they can hate me Instead of themselves. No more simplicity I have a calling It has lured me away from that wilderness. It has thrust me Into the lifelessness And truculence Of the world. The churches of my tears Scream a eulogy A eulogy for the joy That once belonged to the people. They do not miss it. Because they do not remember it. Instead They walk the pavement Feeling as if something has been lost. And the earth grows louder… Louder to try to reach them Through that pavement And Metal And Glass. Like the voice of a mad man Locked behind the depraved walls Of an asylum It is the mad man who is sane. It is the mad man who is sane.
Teal Swan is an internet self-help guru as well as an author and speaker. She also writes poetry. If you’re at all familiar with the internet world of self-help, then you’ll probably recognize her. She is strikingly beautiful as well as incredibly sharp—this combination is probably what caused her to enter the self-help field in the first place, for she struggled herself with some form of mental illness, trauma, and addiction throughout her life.
This poem really stuck with me when I read it because it touches on something that our society rarely addresses. This is the inherent desperation that comes with the reality of pursuing a life of meaning.
Many people long to pursue a life where they have some clear mission or purpose, a life where they can make an impact and contribute something of worth to the world. However, as Swan addresses in this poem, this kind of life does not end dissatisfaction and actually brings about its own set of problems. In fact, Swan explains how the world can even take the very meaning from the life that you’ve worked so hard to give to others.
Swan talks about how the more people she is exposed to, the less they actually hear what she’s saying—or rather, see her for who she really is. Instead, people seem to make her into whatever they imagine she could be to them—a simple figurehead to project their own agendas and desires.
This poses the question—is it worthwhile to pursue meaning when the majority of the world won’t ever be influenced or even acknowledge it? There’s the idea that if you can just help one person then you’ve done something worthwhile but is that really true? Is helping a small amount of people ultimately worth the sacrifices that are made, personally?
There is obviously a reason why so many of us choose to live a life of mediocrity—a simpler life. Maybe the only people who would ever be foolish enough to try to help the world are people who have no option of living a “normal” life due to a trauma or personal wound of some kind.
Is there an alternative though? If an individual is unable to live a normal life but similarly is unable—or unwilling—to pursue anything extraordinary, what kind of life can they live? The answer is in the final lines of Swan’s poem; it is the mad man. The mad man who is put into a psych ward and forcibly fed drugs to sedate them. The mad man that keeps to himself and keeps silent because of the violence and ignorance he’s used to enduring whenever he speaks up. The mad man who refuses to work because he sees the pointlessness of it all. Swan says, “It is the mad man who is sane,” because the mad man is the only one who refuses to play any of these artificial games and is unwilling to put up with any of the world’s condemnation and insanity. Which unfortunately, our current world is pretty damn full of.
Of course, the mad man’s poetry will never get out into the world. So it is fair to say, at least from the perspective of someone learning from Swan’s work, that her pursuit is worthwhile. Is it possible then that helping one person could actually make the ignorance of many others obsolete? I guess it all comes down to the ability to maintain the right perspective. The fact that Swan can write a poem like this and continue on means she has.