A Fool Crisis in America
America doesn't have a mental health crisis. We have a fool crisis, and if people would stop acting like fools, they would stop complaining about their mental health.
Saying this out loud gets me in lots of trouble, the top reason being that a fool almost never thinks he's a fool — it's his last guess at why he's in pain, and before he gets there, he has a chain of reasons as long as his arm. High up on this list of excuses, probably first, for most actual fools today, is that they're "unwell." The problem? Their brains. So in fact I agree with them — I just happen to view their problem from another angle.
Before explaining, I want to explain what foolish isn't.
Foolish isn't when your kid dies and your life turns black. Foolish isn't being born into an abusive household and trying to recover from trauma. It also isn't waking up one morning and realizing that your whole life is going nowhere and that you're going to die and maybe nobody's going to remember you in a few years. These are all great reasons to be sad, and, I would argue, if you are sad, then it's a sign that you're healthy. It could even be argued that if you aren't sad when bad things happen, you're sick. So we can cross these off the "mental health list," and anybody who says he's suffering mental unhealth because of them is a fool. Wrong words signify the wrong ideas, and wrong ideas are the only reason anybody can be foolish.
So then what exactly is a fool? A fool isn't someone who screws up. A fool is someone who never asks himself if what he's doing is stupid. He never asks himself if what he's doing is morally wrong. He prefers instead to play the victim. He never asks himself what kind of an organism he is and whether or not his lifestyle is healthy. He frames everything in the worst light possible and then expects himself to feel okay about it.
This last one is especially stupid. It's also especially common, so to put it in the clearest light possible, it's being upset about your car problems without thinking you're one of the only people in history who gets to drive a car. Or having someone do you a favor and not saying how lucky you are to have him. It's going through life, having 99% of everything you want go your way (think about this, I dare you), and then pretending the 1% not going your way is your whole life. It's not being thankful to your parents when they care for you, not listening to them when they're just trying to save you, not telling them you love them when the time you've got left with them is short, now, and getting shorter every day.
Every second of every day, there's something or someone beautiful right in front of you. God has put them there, and you never stopped to thank Him. I was told the other day that happy people aren't grateful; grateful people are happy. The reverse is also 100% true, and if you aren't grateful in some way, then you deserve it.
But being a fool is also living a life divorced from everything healthy and then expecting to feel okay. Here are a few prime examples of how modern people wreck themselves.
- Having sex with the wrong people. A healthy brain gets pumped with oxytocin every time you have sex. You keep doing this with strangers, or people who aren't worth it, or both, and your brain attaches itself to these people and then rips that attachment right off — the fast lane to feeling empty and abandoned. Self-indulgence to gross women on the internet isn't an alternative, as it makes you lazy, dirty, weak, and stupid.
- People are biologically wired for being close to large families and having little privacy. Moving far away from your family, not having any kids, and living for a boss who will throw you away is a good way to kill yourself on the inside. Pretending your dog is your kid is a Band-Aid on a lost arm, and it has the added effect of making you look stupid.
- Eating Ding-Dongs instead of veggies. Not exercising and letting yourself get fat and telling yourself you love being fat and publicly making yourself a big fat liar. Staying up late doomscrolling instead of sleeping. Drinking too much too often, or using drugs.
- Violating your conscience. Making promises you don't keep. Pretending Nature made promises to you and won't keep them (i.e., having wild and unusual expectations).
- Whining about survival. Making excuses for your bad performance. Thinking "doing your job well" is the most important thing and that doing it cheerfully isn't (we still hate you). Never taking obstacles in your path as a personal challenge — as the only way you can become a better person.
- Holding long-term grudges against people you never see anymore. Not forgiving people when they say they're sorry. Not asking for forgiveness when you're wrong.
- Reading the news all day and believing that the news is the world without just looking at the world in front of you.
- Waking up and filling your brain with distractions instead of reading something wholesome. Not going to church regularly, or to any other meaningful organization outside work. Watching trash movies and trash TV and listening to trash music. Not understanding that every song has a vibe, and that every time you listen to music, you're changing the frequency of your soul. Garbage in, garbage out.
- Being a consumer instead of a producer. Listening to the radio and never singing with anybody else in unison. Not being great at anything you can feel proud about.
- Not valuing people who've spent more time on this earth than you, and neglecting to ask them questions.
- Chasing Yin and ignoring Yang. Not seeing the good in bad situations, and not considering the bad in good situations. Thinking you can have your cake and eat it, too.
These are only a few instances, but they sum up the stupid things people think and do and then wonder why they aren't feeling okay. The modern man shoots himself in the foot and then won't acknowledge the gun in his hand. We commit soul suicide and then expect the body to go on living well without it. But the body is staging a protest, and when it does, we blame the body. This is when we get meds and call in a "mental health day." We ought to be locked up in the looney bin.
I'd also argue that a lot of suffering in life is normal, and we need to just get used to it. Where we draw the line between normal and extraordinary suffering is a matter worth fighting over and will probably be fought about by every generation. But once you get the foolishness and weakness out of the way, you're free to deal with the mentally unwell — the psychopaths, sociopaths, paranoids, perverts, and fanatics, people who need meds and a nice padded room or a jail cell. But of course we don't want to deal with them, either: we give them cheap drugs and let them run wild on the streets of Seattle, or we give them expensive drugs and let them run Stanford, CNN, Nike, and Disney.
Jeremy Egerer welcomes followers on Substack, and is the author of the troublesome essays on Letters to Hannah. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org to get a free copy of his essays, or to see what he says next.
Image: ElisaRiva via Pixabay, Pixabay License.