What are you asking me for?

I admit to being a keen and regular reader of the Salon advice column Since You Asked. The columnist, writer Cary Tennis, is frequently given to bouts of soul-searching and self-examination about his allotted role. And here is his latest, a masterpiece:

One of the strangest and most striking things about this advice-giving enterprise is how people will willingly seek the advice of a person who, if not utterly mad, at least is, like many creative types, possessed of the full complement of manias and idiosyncrasies typically attributed to the creative personality. I have at times operated on a basis so thinly related to reason as to be called mad, and I continue day-to-day to entertain so many phantasms, occult glimpses, oddities of consciousness, imperfections of mood and temperament, muffled impulses toward violence and aggression, insecure feelings of weightlessness and drift, cognitive failure, memory loss, inappropriate longings, irrational and primitive thought processes, superstitions and fears that my psyche, if viewed in a laboratory, would scarcely appear the kind of sane and stable place into which a person in turmoil would wish to be delivered.

Yet people write to me and ask, What would you do? How can you help? What do you think of my situation?

One explanation is that difficulties endured equip one to imagine and reconstruct, mentally, the equivalent experiences in the inner worlds of other people. But ought not readers also consider the haunting and disturbing possibility that the person they are writing to is not simply a survivor of past madness but may be in fact quite mad? One insulates oneself from such darker possibilities by remembering that none of this advice is binding, or even promoted as practical. It is entertainment. I am like a fortuneteller in an amusement park, the lady with the large gold earring and the piercing eyes who says some hocus-pocus for your temporary diversion and then goes back into her tent as you head for the Tilt-a-Whirl!

Read the full column here. (You may have to navigate the incredibly annoying site pass system, which frequently makes me give up on Salon content altogether and just click on the little cross-shaped button, but the best you can do is just keep clicking through.)