It is our concept of normal, which restricts and constricts us.
And there are so many versions of ‘being normal’, that one never gets around to being totally acceptable. Yet, parents, teachers and priests keep struggling to propagate their own concepts of acceptable behavior. Excellence is deemed to lie in reproducing published answers from a scripture or book, not raising questions.
What exactly is deemed to be ‘normal’ — median, middle-of-the-range (as medical science defines the acceptable range of various elements in the body)? Or not being socially offensive? Dr. Christian Northrup says that we have defined a range for both happiness and sorrow, and any emotion that transcends these limits plays havoc with the body, to generate disease.
But, one needs to utter the word ‘mediocre’ or ‘average’, and it raises the heckles of all parents and guardians. That is exactly where they do not want their wards or students to end up in life. So, academically and professionally, the bar is being raised, till the ‘high’ becomes the new ‘normal’. Socially, we are hailed as ‘level-headed’, if we allow elders to take pride in our politeness and subservience. Having your feet planted on the ground confirms good breeding.
There have always been two distinct classes – one that sets standards, and the other that is expected to follow suit. Who has authorised the former to set standards? Is it by virtue of being ‘born ahead’, ‘knowing more’ or ‘having more’? It is an edge they lose rapidly, as the other class advances, and takes over authority from them.
‘Normality’ is then, a shifting scale, on which we invest a lot of time, effort and moral codes.
Normality is neither absolute nor universal.
Jonathan Sholl, Asst. Professor in Philosophy of Science and Medical Philosophy
Sholl continues to opine that,
No matter how rare an individual seems, he could still be viewed as normal, if the behavior ensured survival in a given environment.
The norms for prosperity, physical appearance, compliance, and acceptable degrees of violence and sexuality define the limits of a culture. Hence, the concept of normal changes, as we move from one culture /geography /economy to another. We cannot have the same lifestyles in sub-zero Arctic temperatures, and in tropical climes. We cannot set the same expectations in a developed and developing country, with different GDPs. People bound by slavery for ages, find total freedom frightening. Their mental chains need an anchor for support and survival.
The imposing edicts of legal structures and governance models drive social norms. Conformity ensures acceptability, and acceptability facilitates social and material success. ‘Normality’ is therefore, a facilitator on the path to success. Adaptability, then, becomes the new code, and it creates the need for frequent paradigm shifts. Politicians thrive in these settings, as they create new versions of acceptability and adaptability, to suit their own interest, and refine their ‘art of the possible’.
I am still looking for the opposite end of normality. I have lived in those environs, but cannot place my finger on the exact term. Is it ….
…… Or something else?
Readers are invited to help me out.
Originally published at reinventions.in