Insanity is a difference in valuation from norms.

from Lila: An Inquiry into Morals by Robert Pirsig page 166 fiction ~4 min read

He opened the door and put the tray on the bunk across from her. 'If I've made the drink too stiff let me know and I'll add some water to it,' he said.

She didn't answer but she didn't look angry or disconnected either. Some progress, maybe. He closed the door and went back into the main cabin and started to fix his meal . . .

There are three ways she can go, he thought. First, she can go into permanent delusions, cling to this doll and whatever else she's inventing, and eventually he'd have to get rid of her. It would be tricky, but it could be done. Just call a doctor at some town they came to and have him look at her and figure out what to do from there. Phaedrus didn't like it, but he could do it if he had to.

The trouble is there's a self-stoking thing where the craziness makes people reject you more and more, which makes you crazier, and that's what he would be getting involved in. Not very moral. If it went that way she'd probably spend the rest of her life in an insane asylum, like some caged animal.

Her second alternative, he thought, would be to cave in to whatever it was she was fighting, and learn to 'adjust.' She'd probably go into some kind of cultural dependency, with recurring trips to a psychiatrist or some kind of 'social counselor' for 'therapy,' accept the cultural 'reality' that her rebellion was no good, and live with it. In this way she'd continue to lead a 'normal' life, continuing her problem, whatever it was, within conventional cultural limits.

The trouble was, he didn't really like that solution much better than the first.

The question isn't 'What makes people insane?' It's 'What makes people sane?' People have been asking for centuries how to deal with the insane and he didn't see that they'd gotten anywhere. The way to really deal with insanity, he thought, is to turn the tables and talk about truth instead. Insanity's a medical subject that everyone agrees is bad. Truth's a metaphysical subject that everyone disagrees about. There are lots of different definitions of truth and some of them could throw a whole lot more light on what was happening to Lila than a subject- object metaphysics does.

If objects are the ultimate reality then there's only one true intellectual construction of things: that which corresponds to the objective world. But if truth is defined as a high-quality set of intellectual value patterns, then insanity can be defined as just a low-quality set of intellectual value patterns, and you get a whole different picture of it.

When the culture asks, 'Why doesn't this person see things the way we do?' you can answer that he doesn't see them because he doesn't value them. He's gone into illegal value patterns because the illegal patterns resolve value conflicts that the culture's unable to handle. The causes of insanity may be all kinds of things, from chemical imbalances to social conflicts. But insanity has solved these conflicts with illegal patterns which appear to be of higher quality. Lila seems to be in some kind of trance-like state up there but what does that mean? In a subject-object world, trance and hypnosis are big-time platypi. That's why there's this prejudice that while hypnosis and trance can't be denied, there's something 'wrong' about them. They're best nudged as close as possible to the empirical trash heap called 'the occult' and left to that anti-empirical crowd that indulges in astrology, Tarot cards, the I-Ching and the like. If seeing is believing then hypnosis and trance should be impossible. But since they do exist, what you have is an empirically observable case of empiricism being overthrown.

The irony is that there are times when the culture actually fosters trance and hypnosis to further its purposes. The theater's a form of hypnosis. So are movies and TV. When you enter a movie theater you know that all you're going to see is twenty-four shadows per second flashed on a screen to give an illusion of moving people and objects. Yet despite this knowledge you laugh when the twenty-four shadows per second tell jokes and cry when the shadows show actors faking death. You know they are an illusion yet you enter the illusion and become a part of it and while the illusion is taking place you are not aware that it is an illusion. This is hypnosis. It is trance. It's also a form of temporary insanity. But it's also a powerful force for cultural reinforcement and for this reason the culture promotes movies and censors them for its own benefit.

Phaedrus thought that in the case of permanent insanity the exits to the theater have been blocked, usually because of the knowledge that the show outside is so much worse. The insane person is running a private unapproved film which he happens to like better than the current cultural one. If you want him to run the film everyone else is seeing, the solution would be to find ways to prove to him that it would be valuable to do so, Phaedrus thought. Otherwise why should he get 'better'? He already is better. It's the patterns that constitute 'betterness' that are at issue. From an internal point of view insanity isn't the problem. Insanity is the solution.

—Robert Pirsig, Lila: An Inquiry into Morals, p. 166