By BOB LANE
A recent Sydney Harris column on paranoia was most
instructive. Harris wrote, “everyone knows that the
mental disturbance called paranoia gives the patient a
distorted sense of reality, he sees through a glass darkly
and what he sees ·is mostly the product of his own
emotions, ” . .
Now I suppose that most of us suffer in varying degrees
from this affliction ..we often see not what is there, but the
reflection of our own emotions. This happens when looking
at paintings with preconceived ideas of ‘Visual presen-
tation. It.happens when we think that the RCMP officer is
looking at us when we meet on the highway, when most of
the time he-she is not thinking about us at all but about
lunch or domestic problems.
The world is given to us in emotions. We feel happy or
sad, morose or ebullient, and respond to our family or’
friends depending upon our mood. We respond to the world’
depending upon our ‘feelings.’ . .. .
One time we feel like hugging the family cat another
time we want to throttle it.
Luckily, most of the time we can channel our feelings,
our fears and anxieties so that we at least have some sense
of a commonly perceived reality. Imagine the chaos if in
fact the world were different for each of us.
If we are to strive together for common goals then
clearly we have to eliminate cheap subjectivism and
What we most desperately need now, as always, is a
sense of moral imagination. We need to be able to imagine
the world from the other person’s point of view, to try to
see what he or she sees and believes before we pass a
How often have you seen good people – full of energy,
commitment, and talent – strike out at each other in
senseless and destructive ways when, at rock bottom; they
were Interested m the same thing?
How often.have you been hurt by people who were unthinking
or insensitive and there, when you had a chance, struck back in kind?
All but the saints among us are guilty of these and
Arts groups it seems are particularly susceptible to
these afflictions. Good, talented, sensitive people end up
tearing-away at each other in public displays of hysterical
outrage. I met a cynic once who claimed the best way to
kill any idea was to give the idea to a committee of artists.
What is’ the answer to all of this paranoid self destruction?
Probably the oldest remedy on this earth is
still the best one: common sense. It preaches give and
take, acceptance, tolerance, and cooperation.
(originally published in the Nanaimo Free Press)