To Lose the Madness gleans its name from a quote by Jim Harrison. In the film adaptation of Harrison’s novella, Legends of the Fall, we follow the story of the war-wearied character Colonel Ludlow who, after watching the butchering of the Native Americans, gives up his post. To “lose the madness over the mountains and begin again,” he sets off and moves to the remote frontier of Montana where he hopes to raise his three sons in a more-just world of his own creation. The character of the disillusioned warrior soothed by the simplicity and silence of nature is an archetype of this war-driven, industrialized era. It is the story arc that traces the trail of the once-idealistic-now-misanthropic protagonist led astray by progressing culture who ultimately finds themselves and a long-sought truce with their demons in the honesty of the landscape, be it alone or among a native people with a more rightly-aligned set of values. This tale has been told again and again both in literary form and contemporary film. There is some element of hope for the hopeless found in these stories that speak to the profound depths of our weariness and sparks in even the most disillusioned soul the hope of peace and a quiet life of meaning.
After years of fighting personal battles and greater wars with toxic relations, I felt like a veteran of trauma. In the years before the events that play out in To Lose the Madness, a pervading need to see the mountains seemed to start seeping from my bones. I didn’t know quite why it was so important to see mountains at the time but I’ve begun to understand.
Nutritionists say the body knows what it needs. When you are deficient your body will naturally crave foods rich in those particular vitamins you are lacking. When our bodies crave certain foods what we are experiencing is a mild malnutrition as a result of eating nutrient-deficient foods for a prolonged period of time. The same occurs with our soul and the mind. Looking back now, I believe the need for the mountains was my soul’s way of seeking what I was deficient in. After a protracted period of illness and grief, a longing for wildness rumbled loud within my tired mind. I found I’d grown terribly disaffected. I had seen so many ugly things in my short time and my soul, in its wounded state, craved beauty.
Beauty has the power to sooth the traumatized mind. In order to gain distance from the painful memories that mount, we need to place space between us and the harshness. That mental padding comes in the form of new and positive memories made in the wake of trauma. After years of offensive experiences, my mind ground against the awful images of what had taken place and I couldn’t cope with the imbalance. I needed a positive experience equal in its grace to that of the horrors of the trauma I’d endured. I found that halting beauty in the wild silence of the snowy Sangre de Cristo Mountains.