A friend of mine says to me the other day, “I just want to be normal.” Normal, I thought, as I scratched my chin in an attempt to seem intelligently pondering the statement.
“What is normal?” I asked.
Normal is, according to one of the definitions at Merriam-Webster.com: according with, constituting, or not deviating from a norm, rule, or principle, or another definition: conforming to a type, standard, or regular pattern.
Regular patterns? What is a regular pattern in real life? There seems to be no such thing but that doesn’t stop us from looking. We frantically aspire to normality it is our only vision in life, it offers a faux validation that only normalcy can.
As I often do, I wondered why. Why are we so determined to be normal? There has to be a deeper reason than the obvious, and of course I came up with a little theory of my own.
I started thinking about the kind of music we listen to, the jobs we have, and the houses we live in, the churches we attend. What gives us value, makes us feel whole, or part of something? How do we relate to the community around us and how do we make ourselves feel like we can figure life out?
This to me is where “normal” comes in. Normal is a great way to pretend we’re OK with ourselves; the reality is that we’re not. We don’t feel normal and we are constantly comparing ourselves to other’s version of normal, proof, that we are not content.
The problem is that there is no normal in life. The only thing we have in common, the only “normal” is the human condition, it’s where normal starts. It’s the common thread we all have to make sense of this place we’ve been dropped into. But immediately we deviate, not by choice, from normalcy. One of us may be dropped in to a rich wealthy family, while the other a ghetto. One is born of one race, one of another. Immediately we begin searching for answers, we want a regular pattern to conform to.
Our search to conform has led us to certain social inventions. The other day some friends and new acquaintances of mine were eating some pizza at Brasserie Four and we started talking about manners. Not the human decency don’t punch someone in the face type manners, the kind about what side of the plate your fork goes on. One of my buddies at the table, we will call him “Ben”, since that’s his name, at one point won a table setting competition at a fair somewhere. Oh the smile that shown on his face as he described his sister’s second place finish in that very same competition.
It didn’t occur to me then, but the reason why someone invented a way to put the forks in line is so that we could all have a standard to conform to. Hence becoming normal. When we have a standard to conform to, then we can attain something that makes sense to us. It’s the same reason for religion, we go to church, that church has set up a list of guidelines of how to live based on their interpretation of whatever book they deem gospel. Then as we live up to those attainable standards we feel good about ourselves. If you don’t live up to those standards there is now something for them to judge you by. Gangs are the same way, set the standards, fit in, achieve some semblance of community. It’s starts in the Boy Scouts and never stops.
It’s our own checks and balance system that only makes sense because we say it does. Everybody wants to be normal, and there are many paths to it. The paths to normal often intersect and there are wars that break out because of it.
You can say what’s normal for you and I can say what’s normal for me, but really we would both be wrong if we are talking about a set of standards one adheres to achieve that end.
Now if you want to talk about the commonality in our abnormality, the camaraderie in our irregularity, that’s something I’d like to discuss.