One of the curious things, to me, is how many of the authors on the Biblioteca Adelphi list spent time in sanitoriums, asylums, and the like. It seems to have been a bit more standard, in earlier centuries, that one would have a breakdown of sorts, and take a rest. Perhaps in the Swiss Alps, having long walks and tea, until ready to re-enter the world. Writing letters to other famous (or to become famous) folks, on what you are doing and what you think.
These days, commital seems to be a linear path to One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. Then, however, a pause, a break, a restructuring. It was more of a revolving door, and involved fewer drugs that dement the brain from its ability to think or dream. (I don’t include opium in that category, we can discuss this later, if we must.)
This morning my background listening is Warren Ellis and Kevin Slavin having a chat about Warren’s work. His latest book, Normal, is about the strategic planners who look at the end of the world, who forecast the demise, due to climate, politics, greed, or other forces, the abyss-gazers, who eventually end up medicated and in a camp in the forest, their heads too full of propriety knowledge to set free, but too broken to function.
This brought me back to this interesting pattern of breakdowns, and the meaning inherent in this. In fact, perhaps I should not call them breakdowns. That is a modern word for a cultural behavior that does not seem to have been quite so troublesome as it would today.
I wonder though, if in today’s world, a little sanitorium going might be good for us. Take a moment to walk the hills, and remember life.