Idle Musings

Normality?

Normality?There is something about being a normal person that’s comforting. I know that, because apart from living frugally in the Caribbean as a self-employed dilettante, I’m a quite normal person, enjoying quite normal things. Okay, I’m no television and football fan, like most males in my age, and I hate cars. But I enjoy Hollywood cinema and cold beer, so there you have it. We’re all normal (as we’re all weird), to a certain extent.

The comforting thing about normality is this: If you are normal and enjoy normal things, you don’t stand out. You don’t have to worry, you don’t have to care. You don’t have to demonstrate against the government, because you like the normal way things are going. You don’t have to eat healthier, because you’re okay with having a normal figure and a normal life expectancy. You don’t have to kill yourself at work, because you come along with a normal paycheck, and you’re happy with your children going to a normal school.

The problem is that normality can also be a comforting way of ignoring our problems and making them worse. It can become normal to see your uncle drink half a bottle of whisky each day, but in reality, he is becoming an alcoholic. It can become normal to read that each year there are less albacore tunas caught in the Mediterranean sea, but in reality, we are extinguishing them. It could even become normal to see BP destroy our oceans because of unbelievable greed, but in reality, it’s not. It’s doing the wrong thing – and it’s us who are doing it, it’s us who are responsible, because we are living a lifestyle of unsustainability that has become our current normality.

Alcoholics, extinction of species, and the pollution of our planet caused by our addiciton to oil may be as normal as underarm hair. But just because it’s “normal”, we don’t have to accept it. If things were different, why would we shave our armpits? Why would we invent pain killers, if pain is something completely normal? Why bother about using condoms, if AIDS is normal?

Normality doesn’t exist. It’s always a question of our point of view and our interpretation of reality. Whatever we are doing (or not doing) that feels wrong, we are free to change it at any moment of our lives – even if it appears to be normal. We may as well start here and now.


Related NSFW Rap Song: Average Normal Guy
Illustration based on a photo (cc) by kk+.

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Jonathan Ziemba August 31, 2010 at 3:42 pm

Spot on “Normality doesn’t exist” I am amazed at what constituted normal just a short time ago, white only drinking fountains, V8 engines that got 6 MPG that defined an American generation to sacrifices to the sun God Huitzilopochtli. As I look around I can no longer view anything as normal or abnormal. I am trying to see “as is” stripping my filters away, my views on how things should be. I am finding it more comfortable existing in my discomfort (reality not matching my expectations) more everyday. Viva change “here and now”

Fabian August 31, 2010 at 9:46 pm

Hehe, if only it would have been Huitzilopochtli… ;)
Thanks for your comment, Jonathan! Change is here, every day, so let’s try to steer it towards a brighter side!

Ana María September 1, 2010 at 9:19 am

Agree absolutely, we’re all normal and we’re all weird.

There’s a different however on what is common and what is normal, or should be the norm.

Fabian September 1, 2010 at 9:48 am

Yeah, but who decides what “should” be the norm? I took the liberty to put some “shoulds” into my post, but once we leave this blog it becomes a lot harder…

Ana María September 1, 2010 at 10:03 am

Absolutely. But common sense makes your should sound right on.

Anyway, big ideas are hard to make concrete and is true, we definitely can’t impose our beliefs.

(hey, could you e-mail me, I have a very cool idea to run by you :)

Earl September 1, 2010 at 3:32 pm

We each have to decide what is normal to us, with the understanding that even our sense of normality is going to change over time. But beyond ourselves, the word normality loses its meaning and I agree with you that it can’t exist. I try to have zero expectations as much as possible, and I constantly try to remind myself that anything that appears even remotely normal to me, will most likely not be the case for anyone else. With this method, I can safely navigate through life (most of the time), no matter what changes occur. It’s like living on the outer edge, where you get such a broad view of everything, that no one aspect can be considered normal.

And thanks for the link to the Armpit Shaving post!

Fabian September 2, 2010 at 12:06 pm

“Zero expectations” sounds very Zen, and I think it’s a good way of approaching things. I try to embrace “optimist pessismism”: Prepared for the worst, but really awaiting something (at least a little) better. :)
As for “living on the outer edge”… this sentence opens a world of images in my mind, mostly of navigators on a still undiscovered planet – they indeed get a broad view of everything and their notions of normality challenged. And this spirit is still alive today, I think! Thanks for stopping by, Earl!

janet September 7, 2010 at 2:44 am

albacore tunas!!! lakdjsf
as a struggling wannabe vegetarian (meaning dammit, i’m trying and it’s hard, and i ate some fish), i know all about this. well, i remember watching something about it on tv, like the discovery channel or something cool like that. how commodities like sushi are making demand for albacore tuna and depleting the resource. because that’s what we do. take too much. always.

i don’t like normalcy. it’s status quo.

and so, i’m rather starting to accept the fact that i’m a little bit “crazy”.

Fabian September 9, 2010 at 12:44 pm

That’s the spirit, Janet: A big YAY for craziness, and good luck for your journey toward vegetarianism. I don’t eat a lot of meat or fish, maybe once every ten days or so, but then try to get the best quality available. I personally really like the taste, but eating cheap (and often ugly) meat every day isn’t my thing, and it’s not sustainable either, as the tunas show.

Marking December 15, 2010 at 5:30 pm

I linked here from Penelope’s last post while looking for blogs similar to mine and this blog is great. You got a new follower. My thoughts are yes, normality doesn’t exist within any individual but as a more collective, societal, meta-thought, either formed by the behavior and thoughts of everybody with a social context, or by a group of people in power, it has to exist or we wouldn’t be writing about it. Or am I completely missing the point. Either way, great post!

Fabian December 15, 2010 at 5:37 pm

Thanks Mark! I suppose to see normality as a kind of “meta-thought” influenced by different forces in society makes a lot of sense. This is exactly the reason why we shouldn’t take it for granted, but look behind it and think for ourselves.

Kortni August 12, 2013 at 8:13 am

I have to disagree with you on one point. I believe that normality exist. To me, and depending on the topic, normality is the higher percentage of the opinions, decisions, experiences, etc. from individuals all together. It’s definitly based on the average of the these things. I believe that a persons perspective of normality can drastically differ from others. However, I agree that people have the ability to change their reality from normal to unique.

Fabian August 12, 2013 at 6:39 pm

Thanks for your comment, Kortni. You’re right of course that normality exists in our perception of things. It’s exactly what you describe, “the higher percentage of the opinions, decisions, experiences”, “the average”.

My argument here was that we don’t have to accept certain things as “normal”, as we sometimes do when looking for excuses to explain why we don’t act. So my hope is that we begin to reject “That’s normal” as an excuse, when we could do something to improve it. Hope that makes sense! :)

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