A man walks into a psychiatrist’s office. He has a raw piece of bacon dangling from each ear and a bird’s nest on top of his head. He sits down and says to the Doctor, “I’m here to talk to you about my crazy brother…”
If you spend much time with people you’ve had a conversation like this. If you do and don’t recall a conversation like this, you might want to check the top of your head for feathers.
Lately I’m feeling the weight of these accumulated conversations.
The simple truth is that we tend to establish our baseline for ‘normal’ from our own experience. Then, in conversations or experiences, our baseline bumps into the norms of others.
My son at University fills me in on the fun ‘facts’ that one of his professors shares in class about the ignorant and evil Americans to our south. My friends from the States send me messages about the horror stories they’ve heard about our terrible socialist system of heath care up here. A friend who has embezzled cash from another friend offers to help me with my finances. Church goers with a proven history of being deceived and chasing rainbows email me to straighten out my crooked theology. Colour blind painters stop by to offer me tips on how to redecorate my house.
Why is it that our most dysfunctional friends are the ones most eager to offer us insights on life and our own dysfunction?
The wisdom of “Physician, heal thyself.” has given way to the insights from those so far in last place that they think they’re in first. Like the woman I saw being interviewed about the meaning of love. “I’ve been married 5 times,” she said with a straight face, “So I think I know a thing or two about love.” I used to think this was the result of them being born with brass gonads. Now I think it is the result of an over-developed sense of denial…pathological denial.
This past week a friend who has the same gig as me was telling me about a mutual acquaintance who suddenly reappeared on a Sunday morning. This person would be the sort of personality that a psychiatrist would write a best-seller about or a movie of the week could be made about and in both cases would be called too far-fetched by the critics. Not too long ago this guy handed me his new business card and told me he had started a new church. His card, and his new church, both promoted what made his church distinctive. I won’t tell you what it is but in the first century it was called a heresy and the apostle Paul suggested the leaders of the group should, well, cut deep. To help straighten out the misguided sheep of my friend’s fellowship this fellow attended a small group in the home of a person slowly but inevitably dying from a ugly disease. “People who are sick?” this guy announced, “It’s their own fault, they’ve brought it on themselves.” Honestly, it makes me miss the days of stoning.
So how do we change this? Is this Oprah’s fault? How do we break free from this Matrix like web of denial?