“But I don’t want to go among mad people," Alice remarked.
"Oh, you can’t help that," said the Cat: "we’re all mad here. I’m mad. You’re mad."
"How do you know I’m mad?" said Alice.
"You must be," said the Cat, "or you wouldn’t have come here.”
― Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland
Everyone is a little bit mad, but not everyone admits it to themselves.
Some would describe getting up every day to work in a job they hate and have no time for anything they enjoy as mad. Some would describe giving up a sure job to follow one's dreams as mad. Is mad being compassionate, wearing your heart on your sleeve for anyone to bleed? Perhaps mad is hiding away what you think so that others will not ridicule you, thoughts going round and round in your head as you attempt to figure things out on your own. Madness is surely what drives you to take one more step so that you've walked with both feet evenly, or what drives you to check you've locked the house yet again when you're sure it's definitely locked already.
Everyone has quirks, actions that don't make sense to others, little habits that one does without thinking about them. Some put salt on their food without tasting it first. Always start brushing their teeth on one particular side of their mouth and never the other. Turn the music down in the car so they can see the house numbers better. Absently eating the food that's been left on the table while talking, even though already full.
Superstitions are a kind of madness in the modern world; people don't believe them anymore but there's part of them that still does. What if? So we bless someone when they sneeze, avoid cracks on the sidewalk, throw spilt salt over our left shoulder, don't walk under ladders, follow the phases of the moon when deciding when to sign contracts or clean the house, light candles for loved ones, tell actors to break a leg, knock on wood. Those who scoff at most superstitions will still unerringly follow a few of their own under different logical guises. A firm handshake when meeting someone, for instance.
Madness is thinking that you're weird and everyone else is normal. Especially when younger, it can be easier to look at everyone else and see a people who have it easy, who don't do the odd things you do, who don't second-guess themselves. As you get older, you start seeing that they are all weird in their own ways. At the school reunion, you find out the cool kids who made fun of the music geeks turned out to love musicals, the quiet kid was hiding their life at home in an abusive household, the sporty kid has discovered a love of Star Trek, and the main geek still loves their geeky things but has also joined a local basketball team and often pops down the local pub for a drink with a rowdy crowd. Over a beer, the person you thought always had things together confesses that they're scared pretty much all the time and it's tiring, they just do their best to keep their chin up. You bump into someone at the local shops, and you end up saying something stupid, but while kicking yourself mentally for saying it, you see the look in the other person's eye, and you realise that they didn't even notice what you said because they were too busy kicking themselves over something that they had said.
More and more people are discovering in adult life that there was a reason why they found it so hard in school or needed certain things in certain ways to function well, there's all these indications that completely fit some sort of label or other, and suddenly the past makes so much more sense and life can be adjusted in light of the new information to make things just that bit easier in future. There's a method to approaching the madness now.
Mad can be when you know that you shouldn't have another cup of coffee because otherwise you won't sleep tonight. You've stopped yourself in the middle of making coffee three times before, but you suddenly realise you had temporarily forgotten you shouldn't and there is a half drunk fresh cup of coffee in front of you.
Mad is thinking that a group of people from around the world can possibly write everything about everything, or perhaps they know that it's impossible and make the attempt anyway. Mad is many people from all walks of life with many differing opinions all coming together and supporting each other, sharing one beautiful ongoing experience in common regardless of other differences.
Mad Hatter: “Have I gone mad?”
Alice Kingsley: “I’m afraid so. You’re entirely bonkers. But I’ll tell you a secret. All the best people are.”
― Tim Burton’s 2010 ‘Alice in Wonderland’ movie