- Politics and Social Issues
Living Simple: In Search Of The New Normal
I was thinking of some of the crazy stuff I have done during my life and trust me, when you add alcohol to an already off-center human being, you can toss out the book about established behavior. I had a friend during my drinking days who used to watch me doing one of my bizarre stunts and he would always say, “Bill, that just isn’t normal.” I laugh now but in retrospect he probably had a good point.
That got me thinking about what is normal behavior? Webster defines normal as: conforming to a type, standard, or regular pattern.
Of course there is a problem when relating that definition to civilization because a standard pattern can mean so many different things depending on where you live or which culture you happen to be living in at any given time. Now I guess this wouldn’t be worth mentioning except it occurs to me that quite a few people alter their lives and behavior in an attempt to be normal, to act according to the norm. One only has to walk the halls of a high school in the United States to understand this point.
THE SCHOOL SCENE
There are those in any school in the United States who seem to dictate what normal is; once that standard has been established then the ramifications of not being normal can be significant. A student who is bored with the education system and does very little work is considered abnormal; the student who has a great interest in the Arts may not care what the square root of 156 is and thus may be considered abnormal
The majority of students see the high level of cell phone ownership and believe it just isn’t normal unless they have one by age fourteen and heaven forbid a student not wear acceptable clothing while at school. That student will soon find out that to be different is definitely not normal.
While I was a teacher I have seen kids chastised, harassed and vilified for not being normal, for not meeting some pre-determined standard of proper behavior or dress.
What is normal in our country? Is the redneck cracker in Georgia normal? How about the farmer in North Dakota, is he normal? I watch the Yuppies jogging by daily; are they normal in their spandex and jogging cap? Is the socialite in New York City normal or is the rancher in Wyoming? How about the Los Angeles native who sits on a car-clogged freeway each morning? Is that normal behavior?
Is it normal to buy three double-shot lattes each day while preaching to your children the negative effect of drugs or is it normal to complain about the high price of gasoline while driving a Lincoln Navigator?
Show me an older woman with her natural hair color and no make-up and I will tell you she is infinitely more beautiful than the one who is intimately familiar with plastic surgery and expensive eye shadow, and yet millions of women spend millions of dollars trying to manufacture beautiful. Is that normal?
I grew up in a Catholic home but lived in a Protestant neighborhood. We were looked upon as definitely not normal and my parents in turn thought Jews were about as abnormal as it was possible to be. Is it normal to face the East while praying on a prayer rug or is it normal to eat the body and blood of a martyred preacher?
I was not circumcised when I was young and you better believe while taking showers after sports in high school that was not considered normal. I have always felt closer to God on Mt. Rainier than in a church; is that normal?
There are many cultures where marriage is allowed as soon as a young girl becomes a woman, usually around the age of thirteen or fourteen. Is that normal? My mother married her first husband when she was seventeen and her mother when she was fifteen. Can you imagine what the Normal Police would think of that today?
I have personally known people who married their first cousins and you can bet that isn’t looked upon as normal. Hell, being married in Las Vegas by Elvis probably pushes the standards of normalcy in the eyes of most people, so being married to your cousin by somebody who got his minister’s diploma online might indeed be considered acceptable behavior.
And whoa, Nellie, how about those who would have more than one wife or husband at the same time; that may be considered normal within that religious sect but you can bet a great many in our society don’t think so.
Now that I think about it, a Catholic priest is not supposed to have sex. Can you imagine anything less normal than that?
WHO DETERMINES NORMAL?
An interesting question for sure! Who are these people who decide what is acceptable behavior and what is not? What I have always found amusing is that normal behavior is a perception molded over time by the consensus of those in a particular culture, all of whom in one way or another are abnormal.
Think about that point for a moment. Let’s take a look at schools for a second to further discuss this point. Normal behavior for the “in” crowd is determined by what that crowd considers to be the proper way to act in school, but each one of them is in one way or another not normal. Teens who are overweight will certainly hear about it from those who are starving themselves because the models on television present an image of what normal truly is. Those who are shy and rarely partake in after-school gossip sessions are considered weird by those who are so imperfectly insecure that the only way they can feel good about themselves is to point out the differences in others. Come to think of it, that particular point applies to adults as well.
Do the Madison Avenue brain trusts determine what normal is? We are bombarded by advertising from the moment we wake up until the time we go to bed; is it those advertising gurus who determine normal in today’s society? Heaven help us all if that is the case and yet obviously in many cases that is, in fact, the case.
I am planning on buying a farm and making it an educational farm and I am sixty-three years old. I had someone write to me and say that just wasn’t normal thinking. Should I just scrap my plans now that I know I haven’t lived according to what is deemed normal?
A Moment With Bill - Simplicity
SOME FINAL THOUGHTS ON NORMALCY
These final thoughts are all mine so feel free to shoot the messenger. I believe, as long as you are not causing harm to another living being, that normal is who you are and what you do! I do not have to understand or agree with that redneck cracker in Georgia nor do I have to understand or agree with the Madison Avenue types who tell me that I am sorely lacking if I don’t own a certain shirt or wear a certain cologne.
The middle school student who is bored with school and wears bib overalls is every bit as normal as the doctor’s daughter who wears designer clothes and gets straight A’s. In fact, when I was teaching I could associate much easier with the former rather than the latter.
The feelings of inferiority that I saw run rampant in school and which you can witness any day on the streets is because those people are feeling they are less than the established norm and it is just plain wrong. To those of you who feel you need to keep up with the Jones’s to establish your self-worth, keep this in mind: chances are the Jones’s are not special in any way, shape or form. My dad used to say that all people put their pants on one leg at a time, just like we did and in his own interesting way he was right on!
It should come as no surprise that I have always gravitated towards those out there who were considered strange and abnormal. Hell, the woman I love dances in the rain and cries when she sees a dead deer in the road. Is she normal? If you say she isn’t then I hope to one day get a chance to sit down with you and discuss your shortcomings.
ONE LAST THOUGHT
If you define your existence by what others consider to be normal then I wish you a long life and happiness. I may not spend much time with you but don’t take that personally. It’s just that I like to party down with the freaks and geeks of the world. Those are my kind of people!
2012 Bill Holland (aka billybuc)