How to Go Insane

by Robert Benchley

from After 1903 - What ?

One of the easiest methods of acquiring insanity is word-examining. Just examine a word your have written, and then call up Dr. Jessup and tell him to come and get you. Tell him to wear just what he has on.

Let us take a simple word like "oakum", or "delve." Write it out on paper, and then look at it steadily for half a minute. You can't believe that there is such a word.

On the other hand, you know that there is. You know that people have been using the word "oakum," or "delve," for centuries, and that if they look strange to you, you probably look strange to them. That's what gets you down, son.

You can do it with even such an unpretentious word as "though." Just look at "though" and try and figure out if you have spelled it correctly. The longer you look at it, the more you are convinced that you have got it all wrong. Not only all wrong, but fantastically wrong. You have established a record for bad spelling. You have put yourself in the position of being a drag on society.

I would not be one to suggest that insanity is caused by sitting still for a minute and thinking . But I would be one of three.

Just sit still for a minute and think of something. Anything. Just say to yourself (if you can bear listening): "I will concentrate on frying eggs. I will think about frying eggs, to the exclusion of everything else. What am I putting into the pan? What is the force that heats the pan? What is the actual change that takes place in the egg under the influence of heat?

"And who am I, while you are about it?"

Go crazy, sister, go crazy! Just examine one of the words on this page, and go to town!