In the successful, long-running webcomic Edmund Finney's Quest to Find the Meaning of Life, protagonist Edmund has met innumerable strange people. There's the Count that speaks only in literal statements, the executioner who creates an execution-themed amusement park, the dragon who's a scam artist, a homicidal elevator operator and many more. All of these people seem to be insane from the perspective of the reader and of sane, rational Edmund, who shares the reader's values and often acts as an audience surrogate. The question is, are they insane, or is he?
If we accept that insanity is a species of craziness wherein the lunatic's values/beliefs/actions are following a recognizable pattern (e.g. slamming your face into the floor five hundred times every night to ward off the invisible goblin gods)...
...and if we accept the precept that insanity (and therefore sanity) is not a fixed concept, since sanity (normal behavior) is defined by the society you're in, and therefore sanity is relative...
...and if we accept Ray Bradbury's quote, "Insanity... depends on who has who locked in what cage"...
...might it not be the case that Edmund, who appears to be the only sane, rational person in the comic from the perspective of the reader, is actually the crazy one? He appears sane to us, but in the world of the webcomic, he's the one out of step with every other character. Folk wisdom has it that if you encounter a problem at your job, and you switch jobs six times and the same problem reappears every time, you're likely to be the one with the problem. Could this apply to Edmund, who seems out of place in every situation he enters?
Sure, he seems sane to us because we share his values. Edmund Finney's defining traits are logic and rationality, traits that most of his readers sympathize with. But from the perspective of beings in Edmund's world, he's the abnormal one. Their twisted logic and crazy decisions are the norm. What we consider rationality is strange and alien. Wouldn't it make sense, then, for them to lock Edmund up?
And that's exactly what happens, actually. In one telling comic, Hand-Farmer McGann harvests a crop of hands from the ground, then runs off into the night. The police come by looking for an escaped mental patient, and Edmund (sanely and rationally) tells them that a guy claiming to farm hands just passed by. The police call off their search and take Edmund into custody. One reading of the comic is that the police arrested Edmund because he sounded crazy telling them about McGann, and they thought he was the mental patient. My argument, however, is that they arrested Edmund because he gave the rational answer. He wasn't punished for sounding crazy by our standards, but by theirs. Even if McGann had escaped from an asylum (and we see later that the asylum inmates aren't much crazier than the outside world's inmates), the police did their "sane" duty by arresting an innocent man. Everything fits.
Wha! My mind is blown.
It totally makes sense now! No wonder why we've never (yet) met another character that's "sane" like Edmund!
Maybe the same can be said about any solo straight man in a world of commedians.
To look at the opposition though, one of the main precepts of 'insanity', from a clinical perspective, is also the functionality of the individual; while in the relative social sense, the difference state of Edmund's reasoning prevents him from functioning properly, in the universal life sense, he actually functions better than the others (See http://eqcomics.com/2012/02/07/a-yeti-call/ ). This isn't saying that he's strictly sane, of course, just that there are arguments for both. Love the blog!
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