Private kind of craziness

That afternoon, I go visit with Birdy again. I'm beginning to think there's not much use. The trouble is I'm not sure I really want Birdy to come back. It's such a rat-shit world and the more I see, the worse it looks. Birdy probably knows what he's doing. He doesn't have to worry about anything, somebody's always going to take care of him, feed him. He can live his whole life out pretending he's a lousy canary. What's so terrible about that?

Christ, I'm wishing I could get onto something loony myself. Maybe I'll play gorilla like that guy across the hall; just shit in my hands every once in a while and throw it at somebody. They'd lock me up and I'd be taken care of the way I was in the hospital at Metz. I could do it. Maybe that means I'm crazy. I just know it's not so bad letting somebody else make the decisions.

God, it'd be great to be a running guard again; feel the mud sticking in my cleats, smell the mold in the shoulder pads around my ears, hear my own breathing inside a helmet. Everything simple, just knock down anybody with the wrong color shirt.

We all have our own private kinds of craziness. If it gets in the way of enough people, they call you crazy. Sometimes you just can't take it anymore yourself, so you tell somebody else you're crazy and they agree to take care of you.

"You know, Birdy, this is really a fucked-over situation. Who the hell would've thought we'd wind up like this? What went wrong? I have the feeling we haven't anything to do with making our own lives; we're just examples of the way we're supposed to be. We're a little bit different, but in the end, we were as usable as everybody else. You might be the nut and I'm the bolt but we're all part of the plan, and it's all worked out before we have anything to say about it."

I was always so damned sure about being myself and how nobody was going to make me be, or do, anything I didn't want; now here I am. I'm not much different from my old man when you come to think about it. There's nobody original and there's nothing left so we can even fool ourselves.


There's one thing I'm sure of. Singing is like flying. When I sing, I close my eyes and see myself flying through and over trees. I'm sure that's why canaries sing. They were put in cages because they sang and now they sing because they're in cages.

Canaries have been in cages for over four hundred years. A canary generation, the time from birth till breeding, is less than a year. A human generation is about twenty years. Therefore, birds have been in cages for a time that for humans would be eight thousand years. In fact, canaries and humans have been in cages the same number of generations.

I begin to wonder what men do that's the same as canary singing. It's probably thinking. We built this cage, civilization, because we could think and now we have to think because we're caught in our cage. I'm sure there's a real world still there if I can only get out of the cage. But, would my canaries sing as much if they could live in the open and fly freely? I don't know. I hope some day to find out.

(William Wharton, Birdy, Jonathan Cape, London, 1979, pp. 72, 120, 197 & 210)