One of Plato’s most challenging dialogs is the Phaedrus for many reasons. Mainly because it brings up the concept that there may be a confusion between “divine” inspiration and madness. And, the culprit? A single letter, the lower-case Theta. In Ancient Greek, the words manic and man(t)ic are separated by this unassuming letter. The difference between the two words, however, could not be less striking. Manic is the word that has come into our parlance for a level of mental illness that is characterized by so-called racing thoughts and a hyper awareness.
I have known a very good friend die of a very advanced stage of this by walking into a oncoming truck on a major highway, naked. But, I would be lying if I did not see the mantic in him as well. He had a direct line to something else. I have personal issues at times with manic and mantic as well, and I know I am not alone with thinking that this “t” is something pretty damn important. A Mantic, such as the Praying Mantis, is a mystic, someone who has a direct line with the divine. But, really, who is to say which is which? It is an Occam’s razor-thin line that people are often very quick to excise that troublesome theta from the equation. I am very curious about the concepts of normalcy and what are considered deviations from that. Plato was looking into this 2,500 years ago, and he is considered an old, dead white guy. But, how far have we actually come on this topic?