By Mark McDonald
Local epigram writer Ashleigh Brilliant took “Pot Shots” at “Living with Insanity” during his presentation Friday for the Adult Education class, “Self- Esteem: Seek It and Keep It” co-sponsored by the SBCC Center for Life Long Learning and the SB Council for Self-Esteem.
His “Pot Shots” are clever, cunning and sometimes cutting, 17-words- or-less epigrams of philosophical insight which he has been publishing since 1967 starting with: “Wait, come back, there’s a part of my face you haven’t stepped on yet.” He has a PhD. in history, received a National Endowment for the Arts grant, and the Wall Street Journal described him as “History’s only full time, professional published epigrammatist.”
During the presentation of his life stories, he projected a number of “Pot Shots” illustrations and gave examples of insanity he has observed in the world. He said one of the standard tests for insanity–hearing voices in your head-was applied when “Joan of Arc had done that, then went out and conquered the enemy, and France burned her at the stake for being a witch. Now she is honored as a saint. Where’s the sanity in that?”
In one example, he told the audience of 100 attendees, “You can’t have insane people running a war or fighting one,” and mentioned the movie “Catch 22” where the Air Force pilot attempts to refuse flying a mission because he feels it would be insane. Eventually, he is judged to be sane, because only an insane person would want to fly an insane mission.
He related a personal experience about being judged sane or insane, after a pedestrian-vs-car accident where he was the pedestrian and suffered a broken leg and head injury. He said in recovery he was questioned by medical personnel to see if he was in his right mind. They asked if he knew his name, where he lived, and similar questions. He said, “You can answer all those questions, but can still be a lunatic!”
Born in 1933, Brilliant celebrated his 80th birthday at FranchesciPark last month with an open invitation to the community where he gave everyone a signed epigram card. A long-time resident of Santa Barbara, he has twice run for City Council (he didn’t win.) In a personal campaign, he successfully thwarted noisy leaf-blowers within city limits when his got them banned.
He is happy having made his career writing epigrams about the crazy life (he has written over 10,000 of them) and says he wants to one day be elected Santa Barbara Poet Laureate.
His take-away thought was: “What counts is what you think of yourself, not the opinion of others