I’ve never liked “normal.”
When preteen me asked the wrong questions in my religious education class about the mutual exclusion of religion and peace, I was told not to ask those questions.
I was told that religion was normal, and that it was normal to believe in things that had no explanation, to remain silent when I had questions about the truths of the world, to accept that the primary mode of humanity depended on power structures that didn’t allow for defiance in the form of curiosity.
When teenaged me was forced to take antidepressants that made me feel like the walking dead, I was told to take them anyway. It was normal to feel like sh*t, and to feel even sh*ttier while taking the pills that were supposed to save me. It was normal that no one cared to address the root of my pain.
I’ve always been skeptical of what was considered “normal”—the things we accept without questioning, the diseases and wars and expressions of hatred we’ve come to see as inevitable. Something about “normal” never felt quite right to me. For that reason, I’ve always been met with hostile verbiage from those I unintentionally (but also sometimes intentionally) threaten with my propensity for questioning.
“To raise new questions, new possibilities, to regard old problems from a new angle, requires creative imagination and marks real advance in science.” ~ Albert Einstein
Since childhood, I’ve developed a sense of distrust of those who want to stop me from being curious, from asking questions and from pushing boundaries: I view those who thwart questioning as people who are out to derail growth on both personal and global scales. Most people who are determined to keep things “normal” (eg: meeting the status quo) deny us from evolution in an attempt to maintain whatever figment of power they believe they have.
This kind of mindset is considered normal because it’s what see on a daily basis: an obsession with power.
But I’m not a fan of that concept. And here’s why:
I don’t believe that our sole purpose as human beings is to have power. Power never leads to good things, and I don’t care if anyone frowns upon such a broad statement; reality doesn’t lie. All that’s come of power is exactly what we have in our world today: war between nations and religions fighting to make a point or stop someone else from gaining power beyond their borders; sickness with unanswered questions and a plethora of pills that were arguably created as a means to sell the solutions to problems we never had (or the ones we acquired from other manmade poisons); hatred among races and skin colors and, again, nations and religions simply because we strive to upkeep our means of division.
Mostly what we’ve done is just accept this, which in turn has created our sense of “normal.”
We’ve conformed to a sad reality in order to maintain comfort, thus lowering our standard of “normal” to justify the current situation.
I have a hard time wanting to aspire to that, to adhere to what the masses say is normal when it’s not the path I’d like to follow. On a personal level, I’ve learned enough to know that if something hurts me, I will make changes; if it puts me in a cage, I will fight my captor until I am free. I will not stay where I know I don’t belong.
I don’t give a sh*t how “normal” it is.
And both personally and globally, “normal” isn’t progressive. It isn’t inspiring or brilliant or anything that one might seek if one wishes to live a meaningful life. Normal is often a disturbingly lax acceptance of what could be made better with some work, because somewhere along the line we chose convenience over the best and brightest possibilities.
This alone has created the worst of humanity—the responses we’ve chosen over thousands of years as the lesser of two evils.
“Normal” is masking the symptoms of pain and disease with chemicals and drugs and other false solutions, but failing to acknowledge (and proceed to cure) it at the source. It’s labeling different ways of learning as disabled or problematic, but refusing to acknowledge that there is no one way to learn and that education is entirely created of subjective perception. It’s accepting that some people are just narcissists or rapists or abusers or depressed or thieves or murderers or terrorists or mentally unstable, but denying that we have played our part in maintaining a society in which these types of people are so readily bred.
“Normal” is the sh*t storm we’ve created for ourselves, though we won’t admit it, perhaps because so few of us are willing to ask the questions it would take to realize it (because, you know, questions are a no-no). We won’t admit that we’ve had a hand in generating every problem that plagues what could be a beautiful world, and all so that we could effectively market and sell the solutions. We won’t admit that what we perceive to be “normal” isn’t normal at all, that war and money and power and division and religion and education and sickness are all products of a preference towards temporary convenience over longterm prosperity; the segregating identification with “better than” over the collective belonging with “equal to.”
We call these things “normal” because over thousands of years, they have become normal. We’ve grown comfortable with the familiarity of the pain we bring ourselves, and we label it “normal” to justify our complacency as a world riddled with unnecessary hatred and suffering.
And if “normal” is the path to perpetuate such inhumane realities, I refuse to walk it.
I may not be able to change the world, and while that’s something that once angered me, I’ve come to accept it—though not in the way that denies the chances for progress, even if it’s minuscule.
I’ve accepted it in the way that acknowledges that changing the world means changing the minds of the masses, redirecting them towards a conscious mode of thinking and questioning that is neither convenient nor easy, and therefore not appealing as our standards of “normal” demand that we employ the least amount of effort for the greatest temporary gains.
And who am I to convince anyone that it’s worth the effort?
We must understand that those temporary gains are but fleeting specs in history, and that the greatest permanent gains transcend measures of convenience and effort; that the state of our world and the progress we make depends on it; that perpetuating “normal” is not the path for making that progress in the ways we must if we plan to survive.
My only hope is that we understand this before it’s too late—before “normal” becomes the only path and brings us to our end.
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Author: Sara Rodriguez
Editor: Renée Picard
Photo: Flickr/Hannah Sörensson