I want to be a happy madman!

45 Minutes with the Crackpots

I would like to share with you an anecdote that happened to me… and which greatly changed my life: spending 45 minutes with the crackpots.

For several years, I would spend one or two weeks per year on Belle-Île-en-Mer in Brittany.

As the name suggests, Belle-Île is an island! So to get there, you have to take a boat! And for that, the simplest way is the ferry that connects the island to Quiberon several times a day.



On one of my returns to the mainland, I noticed during the ship’s boarding, the arrival of… noisy and out-of-the-ordinary passengers. At a time when we didn’t pay as much attention to our vocabulary, we would probably have said: madmen!

So, I was going to make the 45-minute crossing with about ten neurodivergent passengers, as we now say, several of them in wheelchairs, and their companions.

Although I did my best not to observe them too much out of politeness and surely a bit of embarrassment, my curiosity constantly brought me back to these very animated passengers, thus attracting even more of my attention.

I’m a sad madman! I want to be a happy madman…

After the departure of the ship, I noticed a woman from the group who moved away from the group and quietly settled down a few seats from me. I was fascinated by her face on which there seemed to be a permanent terror, a horror. And I thought that her life must be hell. It even quickly became painful for me to observe her because I felt that her fear was contaminating me.

So I took my eyes off her and my attention was then drawn to another young man from the group who also moved away from the group and sat down a few seats from me, a few rows in front of the “terrified woman”. And he is laughing almost constantly. He seems to be observing things that make him burst out laughing. Intrigued, I searched for the cause of his laughter before realizing that he was in a near-permanent fit of laughter!

And then, I thought: “It’s clear, if I have to become mad, I want to be mad like the young man with the permanent laughter and not like the terrified woman”.

And then, inspired by these unusual encounters for me and by the sight of the ocean, I began to reflect on the nature of madness. Who is mad? Them? Me? How to define the “limits” of madness? What is a “normal” behavior, a “normal” life.



And I arrived at the conclusion: I might already be mad and if that’s the case, I’m undoubtedly like the lady, maybe to a lesser degree (I leave it up to you to judge): I am often anxious, regularly stressed, and worried about what will happen to me in life.

And I am clearly not at all like the young man, laughing, light-hearted, detached, and laughing at life.

The Gift from the Crackpots

I often think about this encounter and how it was an incredible gift to me. And I am filled with gratitude for these extraordinary passengers and their companions.

Because that day, I decided: from now on, I want to be a laughing madman and not a frightened madman!

I am far from having succeeded and I still have quite a few relapses but I am making progress…

Getting ready to get old

I thought back to this encounter recently when I was discussing the end of life with a friend. He shared with me his own encounters with elderly people from the establishment where his parents were and especially “protected” people (meaning: isolated) because they were at risk of danger to themselves. People suffering from a form of dementia. And he in turn told me how he observed among these people some very anxious and frightened ones, apparently without reason.

And this was a powerful reminder for me: if I don’t want to end up as a tormented dementia patient, I must make sure now to be in the category of the laughing madmen…

And you, who I have no doubt are not mad, do you find the madness of life more amusing or does it terrify and distress you?

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