What sanity is doing within the limits of human existence is posing and resolving the issues of future form, future existence. What sanity is doing is essentially engineering futures. You who have risen today from your rest and dressed within certain codes, jump-started your system of symbols and communication in order forward your own existence, or your existence with your loved ones, or with your peers in your teams and societies and enclaves, or even to improve the hope of our species and our environment, our buildings and cars, or our spiritual sides and gods, whatever the field in which you have acted, you have engineered or tried to engineer future. To engineer future is the business of survival in every part of our life, not just ourselves surviving and spiting others, but a quality of survival that spreads out from the center of ‘I' to the centers of every other, and every entity with whom we cross-exchange these survivals.
Thus the Native hunter thanks the spirit of the buck or bear in his prayer, for offering his body to the survival of a family in camp. Thus the American spy delights in the discovery that he is pitted against a brilliant and worthy opponent, in a game whose outcome effects the survival of his own group and their best ideas. Thus the wolverine, too, thanks the rabbit as he tears the life from it, and the child as he is held thanks the woman who gives him warmth. These are the building of futures for each cell, each organ, each self and each group, and the interaction of these efforts is the chorale of daily existence here on our small planet.
Sanity is solving the problems of projection into the future for those forms it values. Which forms, and how valued, are part of the myriad variations of a theme. But in all cases the future of forms is being solved by mental, emotional and material effort on the part of awareness. And this process is the function and primary business of sanity.
To map sanity then, we can assess the major patterns of reaching toward the future. It is clear that those things which seem to destroy more future than they bring about are less sane. We usually reserve labels like 'crazy' for actions which, as far as we can see, are blatantly destructive of future, such as indiscriminate firing on restaurant customers.
It is possible that the lowest quotient of sanity an organism can have, under normal circumstances, is a state which denies all motion. Absolute deathful indifference to all aspects of life would be a low degree of sanity indeed. It would be profound apathy incapable of sensing, feeling, causing or communicating anything. Some very interesting beliefs about the future and the present are imbedded in such an organism.
If we raised the sanity quotient of a person who was in such an absolute apathetic freeze, he would gradually become overwhelmed with sadness and regret. Still, he would be doing nothing toward the future. But he would be at least feeling how awful the impossibility of everything is. He might weep inconsolably as the irreversible loss of no-hope swept over him.
If his sanity quotient were raised slightly he would begin to have an inkling that complete loss and despair were awful things. Instead of being absolutely hopeless he would begin to feel terror that he could not avoid the downfall of things. This is a bit better. At least some faint trace of an idea that something should be done, however terrifying it is, is present.
The next band of ideas a person would incline toward, as his sanity quotient increased, would be to become secretly destructive. His fear would convince him that resistance would be useless. But other factors he is beginning to feel might serve to make him feel like destroying things by secret means. A person who is torn between fear and the urge to destroy has no alternative but to dissemble. His hidden betrayals are usually accompanied by the most persuasive and artistic explanations, rationalizations and assertions of high purpose and good intent. But his genuine effects are viciously corrosive on any group or associate he or she has.
If his sanity quotient were to be increased until he gradually outgrew his terror we would begin to see the genuine rage of destruction in his eyes. Too full of anger to be trusted to shoot straight or manage well, he is a full-blown fury. Ask him for the truth and he will speak wildly and inaccurately. Unleash him and he will drive toward the destruction of others, himself, and any real or imagined enemy or opponent. He will do so in open, screaming defiance, not secretly, because fear is below him.
The amount of future to be expected from any of these states of mind is actually negative.
But if the sanity quotient of full anger is increased, it will modulate into antagonism, combativeness of a non-destructive sort, more focused resentment and a desire to beat a specific target in a specific fight. More rational than unfocused rage, this is the borderline where positive sanity begins and negative sanity falls away.
If we want to we can also follow this process through the pro-active zones of sanity. As each is experienced and the sanity quotient raised, the next set of traits will begin to surface in behavior, in emotion, in speech and in the actual decisions an individual makes or a group of individuals make.
Above the strong motion "at" others which is typical of competitive antagonism is a band of boredom where the future is better understood but not of much interest. Actions which bring about future will be done on a dull-witted, somewhat indifferent basis. But the indifference of boredom is a positive indifference which is light-years closer to true pro-activity than the deep deadness of the apathy level.
Add sanity to ennui and you will get cautious interest, a sort of careful and conservative willingness to proceed in a positive direction, to at least keep things working which are working.
Add sanity and the conservative woman or man will show a modicum of interest, a small impulse to find out a bit more and answer a bit more and get a bit more done.
Add sanity to such a woman or man and you will see strong interest and cheerful pursuit of the future begin to manifest. If it is strengthened it will grow in to strong alert interest and might even grow past that into enthusiasm as the energy directed to bringing about the best future possible becomes more abundant.
A true enthusiasm, not dramatic manic but full of genuine energy, is a gem in any family or group. It brings about a contagious upwelling of interest and future-think in anyone who is within range. Here, beliefs are examined and exchanged without fear, communication waxes high and reality is quickly understood and effectively created and managed.