Commentary: Fine Line Between Genius & Insanity?
The fine line between genius and insanity. Someone used that line with me the other day. Every time I hear it repeated it makes me wonder what the source is. I suspect the first time I ever heard it was 40 years ago when I was in school. It gets said so often people believe it must be true. But it isn’t. I’ve done some thousands of interviews with politicians (some nearly insane as they generally share the same brain patterns with sociopaths), authors, actors, professors, scientists, warriors and just average Joes and Janes on the streets. More than a few of the scientists told me despite the popularity of the fine line claim there isn’t any evidence. Not one jumped out a window thinking he/she was a bird after debunking the phrase.
Oh, someone will say, “Yes, but what about the mathematician portrayed in that movie?” What about him? He suffered mental illness. Some dishwashers suffer mental illness. So do TV reporters and former Secretaries-of-State. It doesn’t make all of them whacky. The majority of math professors are fairly quiet and unassuming people. Go ahead and make a movie about the overwhelming majority. Think of the dramatic potential! A college math professor I had for a course, Dr. Leon Sterle, once told me he didn’t like taking vacations. You see by the end of the week he was staying up later and later watching his television and then would sleep from 4:00 in the morning until noon. When the next Monday rolled around he would be miserable readjusting his body clock. Are we going to make a movie about a guy who watches TV on vacation? You get my drift!
Yesterday I came across a 25 year old photograph. I’m interviewing the daughter of Dr. Albert Schweitzer. He was a medical doctor and also stacked up degrees in theology, philosophy and music. Clearly a genius. Rhena Schweitzer had helped her father operate a mission hospital in Africa until he died in 1965. When I asked her for something interesting about his life she thought for just a brief second. “He predicted our advancing technology would greatly expand healthcare but leave us without any idea how to meet expenses,” she replied. Once more, really, really off the wall, right? The man had degrees piled up to his neck and spoke like a typical bureaucrat contemplating how to break the news of rising insurance costs.
I’m reminded I saw a story this week posted at our company website. The state healthcare exchange is sputtering and there will be cost increases not only for users of the exchange but as well for me. Twenty three percent is the figure quoted at this link. We were told by the so-called smartest man to ever occupy the White House we would expand coverage and reduce costs. A lot of young people who pass on getting coverage thought it was going to be free and then discovered otherwise. Instead they took a cheaper option; paying a penalty. What’s left behind are older people with generally more health needs and of course this puts pressure on insurers who don’t work for free. Voila! The rest of us pay more.
The so-called genius may not be insane but he sure as heck doesn’t understand basic principles of the market. Only the insane would continue buying the patent medicine he’s peddling. I just keep reminding myself just 17 months more. The wait could drive us all crazy.