The Perpetual Three-Dot Column
The Perpetual Three-Dot Column
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by Jesse Walker

Sunday, September 15, 2002
MYTHS AND MENTAL ILLNESS: There are people who argue that the Bible's prophetic visions were, in retrospect, simply psychotic episodes, probably schizophrenia. I'm usually averse to this sort of analysis, partly because I have a
Szaszian skepticism about psychiatry in general and partly because I don't think it particularly clever to run about imposing diagnoses on people you've never met. There's times, though, when I feel like the Bible is chock full of mental disorders, and not just the schizoid kind.

Specifically: Though nominally Jewish, I was raised with few if any of that faith's traditions; and even if I had been brought up to keep kosher, I doubt I would've stuck with it upon discovering the glories of shrimp, mussels, and soft-shell crab. Tonight, though, I found myself attempting to aid in the cleanup after a dinner at a kosher household, only to be told that certain plates could not be put on certain counters, that one group of dishes couldn't be washed with the others, that I had to be extra careful not to mix two virtually identical sets of silverware. As my once-simple tasks grew more and more complicated, insight struck me: Leviticus might be nothing more than an ancient case of obsessive-compulsive disorder, passed through the generations because the founding neurotic simply happened to be tight with the Almighty.

That's not a put-down, by the way. OK, it is, but it's a friendly one. If these dietary restrictions were merely a matter of superstition, I wouldn't have much respect for them. But if they stem from a mental illness -- why, then they're outsider art. Dude, I can get into that.


posted by Jesse 8:18 PM
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