“Two heads are better than one,” it’s been said (although, apparently nature or God disagrees). If we can’t each be equipped with a couple of heads at birth, a couple of personalities, residing in the same body, may be a workable alternative, as schizophrenia could allow a person to take a team approach to writing short stories, novels, narrative poems, screenplays, or whatever. Of course, actually developing schizophrenia may not be as easy as desiring it. Therefore, we need to find another work-around.
Rest in pieces. I think I have just the solution: philosophical, as opposed to psychological, schizophrenia.
Here’s how it works.
Start by identifying your story’s theme. In the interest of the soul of wit, I’ll take a shortcut. Using the biography of Ed Gein, the guy who inspired Norman Bates (Psycho), Leatherface (Texas Chainsaw Massacre), and Buffalo Bill (The Silence of the Lambs) as an example, one could argue that the indifference of the community toward him is somewhat to blame for his career as a serial killer and grave robber. This would be the theme of such a story, then: the apathy of a community toward its individual members can create a monster.
Next, briefly summarize various views concerning the responsibility, if any, that a community has for its individual members. These differing views provide the perspectives of the extra heads that nature or God denied us at birth. They’re the voices of the personalities that we’re developing as a result of our nascent philosophical schizophrenia.
We might include Hillary Clinton’s idea that “It takes a village to raise a child.” We might remind ourselves of the fate of Kitty Genovese, the woman who was attacked and killed as her neighbors looked on from their apartment windows, afraid to “get involved” by intervening or by calling the police. We might include the faith-based view of Jesus. “Am I my brother’s keeper?” one of the apostles asked, prompting him to tell the parable of the good Samaritan.
According to the first view, a community’s members have a responsibility to act together to benefit its children. Why? Hillary doesn‘t say, but, presumably, it’s because the community’s own future health and welfare depend upon the rearing of children who have been educated, socialized, and otherwise nurtured.
The fate of Kitty Genovese suggests that a society that fails to protects its individual members is not only morally at fault but also may face social, political, and moral dissolution.
Jesus declared that God is love and that those who do his will also will to love their neighbors. Therefore, they should not be selfish.
However, not everyone agrees that the community has a responsibility to act on the behalf of its individual members. For example, Friedrich Nietzsche, Ayn Rand, and Aleister Crowley, each in his own way, believed that selfishness is a virtue.
Nietzsche believed that life need not have any intrinsic value and that people either affirm or deny it by their deeds, according to their own tendencies; morality, he said, is merely the means by which the powerful control the weak.
Rand believed that the right and proper thing for people to do is to pursue their own values and promote their own lives.
Crowley believed that there is only one law that governs human behavior, which is to “do as thou wilt.”
Our philosophical schizophrenia has enriched our theme. Instead of our writing a simple story with a perhaps-simpleminded moral, we have the opportunity of writing a richer, probably longer narrative that has philosophical height, depth, and breadth. Several characters in the same story, for example, might represent a different view of the topic at hand, as in Twelve Angry Men. The short story that we’d had in mind originally might develop into a novel. Alternatively, it might become several short stories, each of which examines the same theme in a different way, as many writers often do.
Another example? Sure, since we already have one, in another post, “Evil Is As Evil Does.” In that post, we suggest that horror writers in different times and places, often identify as monstrous, or evil, the menaces that seem most to threaten the worlds in which they live, and we suggested that, for the following writers, these were among the chief evils of their respective days:
- Nathaniel Hawthorne: sin
- Edgar Allan Poe: passion (especially coupled with madness)
- H. P. Lovecraft: cosmic indifference to humanity
- Dean Koontz: humanity’s indifference to humanity
- Stephen King: anything that threatens one’s local community
Bentley Little: the indifference of bureaucratic organizations to individuals’ needs
This list, which, again, could profitably be expanded, gives us six heads, instead of one, and helps us to see evil in a more complete fashion than we might were we to limit ourselves to our own ideas as to what constitutes wickedness. The results could be a complexitication and enrichment of our own views and of our fiction.
Writing as a schizophrenic has its rewards.