Monday, June 22, 2020

The Final Solution: The Divided Self

“Shadow Play,” a Twilight Zone that aired on May 5, 1961 presents Dead Man Walking with a Beckett/Bishop Berkeley, esse est percipi (“to be is be perceived”) twist. Dennis Weaver, the convicted criminal, who's about to be executed pleads for a stay,  insisting that the world is dependent on his perception of it.  If he’s executed, it will cease to exist. It’s also a little like Ground Hog Day since the scenario with some themes and variations continues to repeat itself each time the sentence is about to be carried out. Haven’t you woken up in the current pandemic with its attendant noxious cocktail of racism and economic inequality and wished it was all a dream that simply evaporated? What a relief to find that the current nightmare was merely a form of suicidal ideation and that there was no need to be afraid to be in the company of other human beings? Perhaps you might even unthink it by no longer existing.There have been numerous treatments of mental illness.  In The Snake Pit (1948), Olivia de Havilland suffers from schizophrenia. In Hitchcock’s Spellbound an otherwise “sane” person is made to feel they have lost their mind. One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, the Milos Forman film made from the Ken Kesey novel, I Never Promised You a Rose Garden and David and Lisa all present various states of what Rimbaud referred to as “les derangements des sens.” R.D. Laing’s 60s tome, The Divided Self argued that schizophrenia was not really an aberration, but merely another way of thinking. Considering the current state of isolation in which many people now find themselves, hearing voices may turn out to be a relief or even blessing.

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