• Keith Mathison

Wonko the Sane


When I was much younger than I am today I read a book called The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams. It's science-fiction filtered through an English sense of humor. If you can imagine a cross between Star Trek and Monty Python, you will get the idea. It involves a man named Arthur Dent who is saved from earth just before it is destroyed by a species of poetically challenged aliens. I would attempt to explain, but it really has to be read in order for someone to get the picture. Explaining a joke ruins the joke. There are several sequels to this book, and I read all of them because I have a strange sense of humor.

I don’t remember many of the characters because it has been a very long time, but one character has remained in my memory for all of these years. He went by the nickname Wonko the Sane. One day Wonko picked up a box of toothpicks and noticed that the box included instructions on how to use a toothpick. This led Wonko to fear that the world had gone insane. A sane world, he thought, does not need instructions for toothpicks. In order to help the world, he built an asylum in which to put the entire world. The asylum was an inside-out building. This was necessary in order to fit the entire world into the asylum. Everything on the “outside” of the asylum is inside the padded walls on the “exterior." Wonko lives “inside" the house, which is “outside” of the asylum. I’ve always imagined that the only artist who could ever do any justice to this description is M. C. Escher.

I think Wonko has remained in my mind for so many years because I too sometimes wonder whether the world has gone crazy. It's not just toothpick instructions. What are you to think when you see a pizza box with the words “Open Box Before Eating Pizza” printed on it? Look it up.

The problems are actually far more serious than toothpicks and pizza. Consider the fact that we have an entire generation of people today who sincerely believe that if they feel that they are a bird trapped in a human body, they really are a bird, and everyone else should be forced to affirm that they are birds. Those who do not affirm their birdness are to be shamed into affirmation. Whether people are self-conscious about what they are doing or not, we now have a world filled with folks who adhere to a philosophy that considers reality to be a construct of the human mind. That being the case, the external world must be forced to conform to each individual's subjective feelings. It’s essentially a futile attempt to be God, to be the maker of the world. It results in as many "realities" as there are individuals.

I sometimes wonder whether it would help to note that the existence of the universe preceded the existence of human minds. Somehow I doubt it, but it's worth remembering. The universe existed before we did. Human minds entered into an already existing reality. This reality was what it was before any human being had a single thought about it. When human beings came along, those whose minds did not correspond to the already existing objectively real world would not last very long. If a cobra is ready to strike and you are convinced that you are a mongoose, things are not going to turn out well.

When the content of my mind does not correspond to the real external world, my mind is experiencing a delusion or a hallucination. Whether I think I am a bird or Napoleon Bonaparte matters little. It is still a delusion, and the delusion does not cease to be a delusion even if I gain enough power to force everyone else to go along with it. The emperor’s new clothes were non-existent no matter what he thought about it and no matter how afraid everyone else was to inform him that he was actually naked.

Every day, we see people who have been convinced that they can make reality conform to their feelings. They’ve been told that if they feel that they are a bird, then they truly are a bird. They are told that anyone who says otherwise is a hateful bigot suffering from some kind of bird phobia. And they stand around frantically flapping their arms, believing that they can fly. Sooner or later many will realize that they cannot fly no matter how fast or how hard they flap their arms. Many will give in to despair, and many will end their own lives. The pain they are suffering is not caused by those who are trying to explain to them that they are not birds, never will be birds, and never will be able to fly by flapping their arms. No. That's simply the truth. Their pain and despair is caused by those whose lies encourage them to flap their arms harder and harder.

The world is what it is regardless of my feelings about it. This includes my body. I have a human body. If I think I’m a bird trapped in a human body, I am suffering from a delusion and need to do whatever is necessary to help my mind align with reality because reality is going to win out one way or another. I can say I'm a bird all I want, but if I flap my arms and jump off the roof of a forty-story building, reality will win. If I do that I’m not going to fly. I’m going to die.

Jesus Christ offers hope for those who are weary, whatever the causes may be. If those who are weary from incessantly flapping their arms and not moving an inch off the ground come to Him in faith and repentance, they too can find rest (Matt. 11:28–30). They will never find rest if they continue to listen to those afflicted with profound veritaphobia.

Image by Violinka from Pixabay

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