I have a crazy neighbor.
Or, I should say, I think she is crazy. She thinks I am crazy and she is perfectly sane.
It all started when I innocently asked if she might turn down the volume on her television just a tad (reason being because, on the volume setting she seemed to prefer, it sounded like it was my television in my apartment instead of her television in her apartment).
It all went downhill from there.
To date, she has screamed at me, apologized to me, written me notes, bought me a plant (which is full of lovely deep purple blooms at the moment), screamed at me some more, allowed her dog to chase my visitors up the stairs, called me a $&#*%, made up stories about me and shared them with me, slammed the door in my face and yelled at me through the floor (her ceiling, my floor) to stop opening my dresser drawers because “we” (i.e. she and her dog) “are trying to sleep.”
I – personally – tend to label that kind of behavior “crazy.” Yet she tells me I am the crazy one.
But even though I don’t happen to agree with her – most of the time – a tiny portion of me sometimes wonders. Am I crazy? Is some part of me just as nutty as she is (or, rather, just as nutty as I think she is)? Why do I find her behavior annoying at its mildest – threatening at its worst?
The other day a friend of mine offered up a potential answer to this question. Perhaps, he hypothesized, the reason we recoil from the crazy in others is because it mirrors the potential crazy within ourselves.
I found this theory, um, threateningly plausible.
The truth is, I am perfectly capable of saying and doing all of those things my neighbor has treated me to during the last several months. I am quite able to call people names, make up stories about them, yell at the top of my lungs, slam doors, scream through floors (or ceilings), harass other people’s guests and sic my dog on them (or, in my personal case, my bird)….
I am capable of blind hatred and a fondness for untruth. I am obviously capable of judging others. And I have plenty of ability to create rage towards others within myself – albeit I tend to choose not to take that path these days.
So is, perhaps, my neighbor’s crazy also my crazy? Is it also our crazy?
Gandhi said that we need to “be the change we wish to see in the world.” This advice seems to suggest that less crazy in me would equal less crazy in you…and vice versa.
Then again, Gandhi was shot dead by a crazy person. Jesus was crucified by crazy people. And just a few months ago great numbers of innocent folks were maimed or killed by two crazy brothers in Boston.
So perhaps I am not understanding Gandhi correctly….or maybe he left some essential bit of instruction out.
The thing is, I have long believed that if I adjust my manner and behavior to radiate kindness, compassion, respect and equality towards myself and others, then I will receive the same back in return.
Now, looking at the world’s shared history and recent events in my own personal life, I am not so sure it works that way.
What do you think?
Today’s Takeaway: Like “normal,” the word “crazy” is often overused. Who is crazy? What does that word even mean? Does it mean the same thing to me that it does to my neighbor or to you? How do we lessen – or stop – the presence of “crazy” in this world and in our personal world? What does “be the change” mean exactly?
Crazy looking woman image available from Shutterstock.
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Last reviewed: 5 Jul 2013