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"No one quits their gym membership because they are buff! There is always more inside of us to explore, manage, and share as sources of hope and love for others."

26 December
2020

Reach For The Crazy

We get to define crazy - no one else.

I am married to Camille - the most intellectually diverse person that I have ever met. Her passion has no limits. She was recently reading the classic Italian masterpiece The Divine Comedy completed in 1320 by Dante. I came home for lunch and for 15 minutes Camille regaled me with appreciation and insights she was formulating from reading The Divine Comedy - this very long narrative poem concerning Dante’s vision of the afterlife. Tears were almost apparent.

Why Not Crazy

On the five minute drive back to my office I had the crazy thought - what if I could facilitate Camille having a conversation with the world’s foremost expert on Dante. Upon arriving at my office I quickly googled this burning question and discovered this person’s identity: Dr. Alison Cornish, a Stanford PhD, former Professor at Yale, President of the Dante Society of America, Professor and Chair of Italian Studies at New York University, and someone with an eight-page CV. So I emailed her right then.

Crazy is Just an Opinion

Dr. Cornish,

Hello. My name is Joe DeBruin. I am a clinical and forensic psychologist in CA. My wife of 29 years (Camille) has been reading The Divine Comedy and utterly mesmerized and passionate about it. I decided that one of my Christmas gifts for her is to find a Dante expert to chat with her over a one-hour phone call. I will Paypal you whatever your charge is. Maybe one of the most unusual emails you have received huh!!

Joe DeBruin, Ph.D.

I was not sure this Professor would even be in her office this close to Christmas. I also had no idea whether she would see my email as serious or paint me as some weird crackpot. So I quickly texted a longtime friend who is an English Professor and specialist in Renaissance literature. I asked my friend if he knew the name of the world’s top expert on Dante. He asked me why. I told him that I needed to talk with that person. I let him know of my plan to hire this person to talk for an hour with Camille about Dante.

The Word Unlikely is Often Code For Crazy

His text response to me: “You are very unlikely to get a professor to do this, but the right PhD student might”.

Literally one minute after his text I get Dr. Cornish’s email response back to me:

“Well, gosh, that is an unusual email. I don’t usually make house calls, so I don’t have ‘a fee’. It wouldn’t be a gift if I did it for free. I do love the idea. You don’t mean a lesson; just a conversation about whatever she wants to talk about? In the meantime, maybe she’d like to become a member of the Dante Society of America, and know about the Canto per Canto series we’ve launched together with my Department at NYU and its affiliated Casa Italiana. Very happy to spread knowledge of Dante, especially in the upcoming centennial year”. Alison Cornish.

Then my first therapy patient arrived and we talked about the usual things such as risk, trust in self, learning how to dismiss the weight of other people’s expectations, and freedom to be unusual. And over the next couple hours in between other therapy sessions with patients the good Dante expert and I exchanged multiple emails and we shored up the details of how she would function as a Christmas gift for my wife. Maybe the only time in my life I’ll hire someone to talk to my wife about medieval conceptualizations of hell! Stay tuned for an update on their talk about hell and how it was all totally heaven for me! What crazy thing have you advanced? Let me know here.

Freebie thought for the road: There are great people in the world who are the other half of our crazy idea - we just need to find them.

Joe DeBruin