My “Cherished Madness”

The other day I came across a traditional Christian prayer from the Divine Office. The prayer is known as Prime from the hour of day when it was recited (6:00 am). The prayer implores God “to teach us the way of peace” and “to close our eyes against the throng of earth’s absorbing vanities.” It continues, “May our hearts be pure within, no cherished madness vex the soul…” The madness is cherished, which means it is more than a passing emotion. It is something we hang on to, hold dear, and project to the world. Notice that it has become our cherished madness even though it vexes our souls.

I have been thinking about this prayer a lot. It reminds me of the work I have been doing on the relationship between business and ideology, especially with high tech firms and their progressive social agendas. After all, an ideology can be a cherished madness. Jordan Peterson has even described ideologues as “possessed.” But there’s another reason cherished madness has been on my mind.

Over the holidays, I had a conversation with a friend, someone I see only once or twice a year. So, when we meet we try to make up for lost time. This is a person whom I respect and who, generally, has very wise things to say on all kinds of subjects ranging from parenting and politics to marketing and marriage. Like me, she has children and grandchildren.

Unfortunately, things went sideways toward the end of my visit. When I confided something personal to her about my family, she paused, sat back, and stared at me with a gleam in her eyes. In all the years of our friendship, I have never seen that gleam before. It was as if something had gotten into her–literally. Then she went on to tell me something she had been holding back for years but decided now was the time to reveal it, believing it to be helpful. But not only was it not helpful, it was so far off the mark that it caught me off guard, which does not happen very often.

I composed myself, thought seriously about what she said, and then rejected it. I explained my reasons, but she was having none of it. She must have thought I was being defensive. Eventually, I started doubting myself, especially after she had one more slight to sling as I drove away from her house. She delivered it with the same gleam in her eyes. On the road, I found myself asking what had happened. Was this a truth about my family that I needed to face and accept, or was my friend delusional? To put it another way, which one of us suffered from a cherished madness?

I don’t want to be surrounded by yes men and women. I want to discern, debate, and seek the truth together. I believe in the truth, not a web of mini-truths and partial realities. So, we couldn’t both be right. But I believed then and believe now that she was wrong. Regardless, I still wonder what brought her to the conclusions she reached about my family. And what made her think of me that way?

My study of ideology has led me to Francis Bacon (1561-1626), the English philosopher who developed the scientific method. He said that, “The human understanding resembles not a dry light, but admits a tincture of the will and passions, which generate their own system accordingly, for man always believes more readily that which he prefers.”

My friend believed what she wanted to believe. How or why I do not know. Maybe she doesn’t know, either. But is it my place to tell her, to convince her otherwise? And what of my own cherished madness? If she had read the prayer or studied Bacon, she might be writing this blog post instead of me.

So, I’ve decided to let it go. What can I do? Bring it up next year? But something good has come out of the experience. It has forced me to think about discovering my own cherished madness. It might be good to give up for Lent. If not the madness exactly, then for sure the cherishing.

Glutton for punishment? Go to Robert Brancatelli. Images by Aarón Blanco Tejedor (Unsplash), Peter Forster (Unsplash). Note to self: The best thing I can say about Super Bowl LIII is that Opening Day is March 28. The Brancatelli Blog is a member of The Free Media Alliance.


  1. Ay, Robert, your post touched me because I am struggling with something like the visit you described. Isn’t it amazing when strong writing affects people so that we know we are not alone with our struggles?

    It is not always comfortable. I’m thinking that you and your friend must have the kind of friendship that allowed both of you to share and become even better known than before. Honesty or a bit more transparency is risky or at least scary for me, if there is a chance that my friend might see another facet not experienced before. I don’t always want someone I believed could easily relate with me and actually liked me, and could always be counted upon to cut me some slack, to see or hear bits of my internal conversations or conclusions.

    I expect that my friends and loved ones will always meet the same old Susan. I’m thinking that friends might say, “You know Susan, you know how she is…what she’ll do…”. Since I expect that of myself-being someone dependable, stable in chaos; often I expect the same of my close friends and loved ones.

    I don’t usually want people to change; minute to minute, day to day, year to year. I say that I love mystery, unexpected endings, but not so much in my interactions with people. That can be uncomfortable and who knows what will happen, kind of a loss of something…

    Because it is something on my plate these days, a friend said, “You must be standing in the middle of a room, and if someone shoots an arrow across the room, nothing should stick to you.” Kind of extreme, isn’t it? I’m thinking that I’d probably suffer a lot less and experience less perplexing interactions, but…we will see. Maybe I let it be awhile.

    Thank you, Robert.

      1. Controllable change is what I hoped to say and hoped not to expect:) This expectation, my own Cherished Madness. Ay, a muddled week; too many persons with such difficult stories, and my boat so small. You know the saying: Put a fork in her, she’s done!

    1. Susan, I’ve come to the conclusion that, to put it another way, fences make good neighbors. There is a line that shouldn’t be crossed either by me or the other person, mainly because neither one of us is all knowing and all merciful. If given an opportunity to control, influence, or lord it over someone else, we will do so despite our best intentions.

      Sometimes I envision myself as a rock exposed to the elements. Water, wind, and time have their effect and can be said to change the rock, but for the most part the rock remains.

      So, let the rock remain…

  2. Rob, The reading of St Paul to the Corinthians on ” Love” was one of the readings this Sunday in Church. We only see in reflection….Knowledge is imperfect and comes to pass… In the end only Faith, Hop and Love are left and the Greatest is Love.
    Mr Bacon was right on the money! Usually our are percemptions and impressions are alot better than our analysis’. No one will ever know the reality of the experience about your family member went through and it is skewed by context, time, and environment. It is also jaded by both of your thought process’ and prejudice. Right now we see in a mirror…We will know when the perfect will come..

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